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CNN NEWSROOM

China Convicts Canadian Businessman On Espionage Charges; Eight Provincial Capitals Fall To Taliban Militants; Hospitals Admitting More Children As Delta Variant Spreads; Delta-Driven COVID Surge Affecting Children More Frequently; COVID Cases Rising In Asia As Delta Variant Spreads; Greek Villagers Fight To Save Homes, Refuse To Leave. Aired 12-1a EST

Aired August 11, 2021 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:15]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, I'm John Vause.

And coming up this hour, the success and speed of the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan has U.S. considering downsizing its embassy as fears grow Kabul could fall within weeks.

Kids and COVID with more children than ever before becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus. Health experts say the blame is mostly with their unvaccinated parents.

And the international effort to save Greece from a disaster of unprecedented proportions. More than a dozen countries now fighting the massive wildfires burning out of control.

Those stories in a moment but first breaking news from China where a Canadian businessman has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying.

The court says Michael Spavor will be deported but it's unclear if that will happen before or after serving his time in jail in China. Spavor was detained back in 2018, along with another Canadian Michael Kovrig. Both were arrested after Canada detained a top executive of the Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Now, let's bring in CNN's Kristie Lu Stout live in Hong Kong.

These sentences we had one yesterday a death penalty for drug smuggling. Now, this one for espionage. It seems largely as retaliation for Canada's actions in detaining the Huawei executive.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that's what Western observers have said all along. This is an example of "hostage diplomacy".

But after more than two years of being in detention in China, the verdict is finally in in the case of the detained Canadian businessman Michael Spavor. A court in Dandong, China, this is in northeastern part of China, right next to North Korea. They sentenced Spavor to 11 years in prison for espionage. They also said that he could be deported but did not offer any timetable.

Now, that line has been getting a lot of attention. Some Western observers say that that ambiguity offers room for negotiation. I want you to listen to this from Lynette Ong, she is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNETTE ONG, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO: I think there's a plenty of scope for ambiguity and I think ambiguity is always good in desert cases because right from the Chinese perspective, it gives them bargaining power. And from Canadian -- from Canadian perspective, it allows us to expect a more favorable outcome than 11 years sentencing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now, it was June of last year when Michael Spavor along with fellow Canadian, the ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig were charged with espionage, both men were arrested in China in December of 2018, shortly after the detention by Canadian police of Meng Wanzhou. She is of course the CFO of Huawei, the Chinese tech giant and the daughter of the Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei.

She was charged with misleading the bank HSBC about the company's dealings in Iran potentially causing the bank to violate U.S. sanctions. She has been under house arrest in Vancouver fighting extradition to the United States. Meng Wanzhou insists that she is innocent.

China insists that there is no link between the detentions of these two Canadian men and Meng Wanzhou, but Western observers say otherwise calling this hostage diplomacy.

Now, John as for the case of Michael Kovrig, still no details yet as to when he would be sentenced. I should add that in China courts have a conviction rate of over 99 percent, John.

VAUSE: Kristie, thank you. We appreciate the update. Kristie Lu Stout there live in Hong Kong.

There are at least eight provincial capitals in Afghanistan have now fallen to the Taliban sparking concerns about a new migrant crisis in Europe. The International Red Cross says more than 4,000 Afghans have been wounded in the fighting just this month. Hundreds of thousands are also at risk. The U.N. Human Rights chief says the casualties may amount to war crimes.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more now on the Taliban's rapid advance.

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Consistent bad news for the Afghan government. Now, eight provincial capitals falling to the Taliban since Friday, only three by the end of Sunday. It just keeps accelerating it seems these insurgent advances, Pul-i-Khumri the latest.

And now, troublingly, a lot of these fallen cities beginning to looks like form part of a circle around the capital Kabul.

President Joe Biden, whose decision to unconditionally withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan has sparked this insurgent momentum. While he said he did not regret his decision very clearly and reminded Americans that they've spent 20 years there over a trillion dollars and that the Afghans had 300,000 troops that should be fighting and that he essentially said Afghan forces and leaders had to come together to fight and that at times, they even outnumbered the Taliban.

A lot of that part of the optimism the U.S. has repeatedly shown over the past years. Too trusting frankly in the ability of Afghan's security forces to do the job. There are effective commandos, but they number significantly less than 300,000. That's the full strength of the security forces. And he said they'd been there 20 years, but I think many critics would argue they had 20 separate yearlong policies there.

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WALSH: But the speed at which the Taliban appear to be moving has many troubled, including it seems some U.S. officials who say their previous belief that it could take only six months for the Afghan government to fall or collapse (INAUDIBLE) that and that their timeline is significantly shorter. Even talk about putting some diplomats out of the embassy.

This is collapsing a lot quicker than some had believed. There should be no comfort for anybody who is criticizing the U.S.'s application in that country, what they may leave behind could be a deeply troubling state of some element of collapse.

But many people deeply concern now about the plight of ordinary Afghans caught in the middle as we continue to see the Taliban move through provincial capitals in Afghanistan. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: U.S. officials are now concerned the Afghan capital Kabul could fall to the Taliban much sooner than expected.

And already bleak earlier, intelligence assessment predicted Afghan government forces in Kabul could be overrun within six to 12 months of the total withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Now, the Washington Post is reporting the U.S. military now assesses a collapse could occur within 90 days. Others said it could happen within a month.

Sources have told CNN the southern Taliban takeover has the Biden administration also considering a reduction in the number of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in the capital. CNN's Kylie Atwood has details from the State Department.

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KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There are active discussions underway about a further drawdown from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul sources tell me and that comes as Taliban gains have increased in recent days and recent weeks. And those gains, this pace of those gains has really come as a surprise to many U.S. officials.

Now, this is not an evacuation that is currently being discussed, but a further drawdown from what we've seen over the last few months in Afghanistan. And the State Department spokesperson says that their posture has not changed. But they also acknowledge that they are on a daily basis, looking at the security situation in Afghanistan. And they acknowledged that the ground situation, the environment is challenging right now. If the U.S. could have more diplomats on the ground, they would.

Now, the other thing that the U.S. is doing is pushing for a political solution. The U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan is in Doha this week for talks with the Taliban and he is pushing them to stop their military offenses in Afghanistan, and to engage in negotiations to a political settlement.

But of course, the U.S. has been pushing for that for quite some time. And there are questions about just how much leverage the U.S. has, particularly when the U.S. troop withdrawal is complete later this month.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN, a sign of these COVID times. Melbourne, Australia extending a lockdown to try and step out for Delta variant.

Also, hospitals are seeing a sharp increase in the number of children with COVID. A firsthand look inside one hospital struggling with the surge.

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KENDAL JAFFE, ICU NURSE, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: The Delta variant is definitely hitting them a lot harder, a lot faster than we had seen in the past.

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VAUSE: Pressure is growing on wealthier countries to make good on their promises of vaccine donations. The U.N.'s COVAX program set a goal of distributing two billion doses worldwide by the end of the year. It's August and they're only about a 10th of the way there. A vaccine surplus in countries like the U.S. means the luxury skepticism for some about the vaccine that's causing a huge problem. Around a third of American adults still are not protected. And that's a concern as infections surge to the highest levels in six months.

An advisor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tells CNN the clock is ticking on authorizing a COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 12. This as President Joe Biden says he's worried about children returning to school before they're vaccinated.

The U.S. is now seeing a spike in cases among children with an alarming number of them ending up in hospital.

CNN's Nick Valencia reports now from Louisiana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When you think of people infected with COVID-19, think of Nelson Alexis. The 17-year-old with down syndrome has been in the pediatric ICU at the Children's Hospital of New Orleans for a week. Every breath he takes is a struggle.

Hard to breathe, huh?

Is that helping that oxygen helping you?

NELSON ALEXIS, 17-YEAR-OLD COVID-19 PATIENT: Ahuh.

VALENCIA: A little more than a week ago, Nelson's parents knew something was wrong when he stopped eating. His mother says things got so bad, they thought he was about to die.

When they brought him into the hospital, he was immediately placed in the ICU.

His parents say he since lost 20 pounds.

QUINTETTA EDWARDS, 17-YEAR-OLD SON HOSPITALIZED: He was very sick. He can't do anything.

ANTOINE BENNETT, 17-YEAR-OLD SON HAS COVID-19: He was vomiting. He vomit a lot. He's sweating more. He expressed his discomfort more. He just knew it.

VALENCIA: It's been a widely held belief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that the virus doesn't get kids as sick as adults. But with the emergence of the Delta variant that may be changing, especially here.

The ICU is packed here with COVID patients. This small girl behind me isn't even 2 years old.

There are 18 children being treated for COVID here. Six are in the pediatric ICU. Kendal Jaffe is one of the ICU nurses. She's worked here throughout the pandemic and says it's never been this bad. JAFFE: Over the last year we haven't seen as many kids get acute COVID lung disease as much as we're seeing now. The Delta variant is definitely hitting them a lot harder, a lot faster than we had seen in the past.

VALENCIA: It's a game changer.

JAFFE: It is the kids are definitely sicker than they have been.

VALENCIA: The surge across the country of COVID-19 cases among children is alarming. The American Academy of Pediatrics says there's been almost 94,000 reported cases counted in kids in the week ending August 5th, calling it a substantial increase from a week before.

Chief Physician Dr. Mark Kline says it's disorienting and unnecessary to to see so many children suffering from the virus.

DR. MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: Our ticket out of this is vaccination. Vaccination of every eligible adult, of every eligible adolescent.

VALENCIA: I know your mom and dad are really worried about you. The doctors here are helping you out a lot.

For Nelson and his parents, his diagnosis has made the family reconsider getting vaccinated. Until now, they said they didn't want to get the shot because they weren't sick. Although he is on the road to recovery, they say, seeing their son fight for his life which has them rethinking their decision.

EDWARDS: (INAUDIBLE) everyone to take precaution because this is serious. This is serious and no one wants to sit up here and watch their child fight for their life.

ALEXIS: I want to go home.

EDWARDS: You want to go home, I know we can't do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA (on camera): We know those images are difficult to see especially for parents but this is the sad reality of COVID in this country today.

Inside the Children's Hospital, we saw babies, some of them just a few weeks old, struggling to fill their tiny lungs with air. And what's even more troubling is what doctors say here they expect to happen as with the school year starting back up, that we're nowhere near as bad as it will ultimately get.

Nick Valencia, CNN, New Orleans.

VAUSE: Dr. Leana Wen was health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. She's now a CNN Medical Analyst and author of Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health.

Dr. Wen is with us this hour from Baltimore. Good to see you. Welcome back.

[00:15:10]

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Thank you, great to join you.

VAUSE: OK, it's still true that children are at much lower risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. But low risk does not mean no risk. This is what a pediatrician at Oklahoma's Children's Hospital has been dealing with, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DONNA TYUNGU, OKLAHOMA'S CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Our COVID numbers are increasing week over week in pediatrics and actually, in the adult side. The difference what we're seeing this year as compared to last year, we're seeing a lot more previously healthy kids requiring oxygen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So, a lot more kids in hospital, the symptoms seem to be getting worse and with no authorized vaccine to kids under 12.

If their parents or guardians choose not to get vaccinated if they had that -- you know, that access to vaccinate -- to vaccines, that is as simple as saying they're choosing to put their children's lives at risk.

WEN: Yes. One way to think about the vaccine is community immunity, herd immunity. The idea is that the people who are able to be vaccinated should do so in order to protect those in the community who are not yet able to be vaccinated. It's actually the duty of adults to get immunized so that we can protect our children.

And I really worry about what we are seeing, I think the comparisons that we've been using all along are inappropriate. Just because kids do not get as sick as adults, doesn't mean that COVID-19 isn't a serious illness for kids, which it is.

More than 500 children in the U.S. have died from COVID-19. Tens of thousands have become hospitalized to say that this is a trivial illness just is not true. And I think it's time for all of us as adults to step up and do our part to protect our children.

VAUSE: And one of the rare complications from pediatric COVID infection is multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, which could cause various organs to become inflamed. So far, more than 4,000 children have been diagnosed in the U.S., usually within a few weeks after getting the coronavirus.

The numbers though are growing pretty quickly, more than 1,000 cases were reported for most of last year, that doubled by February 2,000, it hit 3,000 by April, it's now around 4,000 plus as of June. So, it's obviously gone up since then.

Are you concerned by that? Are you worried about where those numbers are heading?

WEN: Of course, I'm concerned about where the infection numbers for children are headed in general, especially because we don't yet have an authorized vaccine for children under the age of 12 as you mentioned.

I think there's something else too about COVID-19 that's different from other viruses, which is that it's a respiratory virus. But it's not just limited to the respiratory system, that there are also effects on multiple other body systems as well.

And we also don't know about the long-term consequences in children who even have mild COVID-19 now and so, that's another reason for us to try to prevent our kids from getting COVID in the first place.

VAUSE: Yes, the kids who depend on us to do the right thing. You know, even for parents and others who are in fact vaccinated, there's still this concern of breakthrough infections, I want you to listen to the head of the CDC, here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: I think we all have to recognize that with 164 million people who are vaccinated, we should expect tens of thousands perhaps of breakthrough infections.

But the most important thing is not the number of the breakthrough infections but what happens here. Those breakthrough infections have mild illness, they are staying out of the hospital, they are not dying. And I think that that's the most important thing to understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: They're staying at hospital, they're not dying, but they could also be spreading the disease to their kids, right? When you -- when you look at this, some of the most common symptoms of a breakthrough infection, a headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, loss of smell.

So, apart from the loss of smell, those symptoms could be caused by a cold or a flu, a sinus infection or allergies. There's a long list of stuff, or the person could have no symptoms at all.

So, what's your advice right now? What should people be looking out for as a sign they have some kind of breakthrough infection? What can they do?

WEN: Well, first of all, I definitely agree with the CDC director that the vaccines are doing exactly what they are supposed to, which is to prevent severe illness, keeping us out of the hospital, out of the morgue, that's the most important thing.

We also know that the vaccines also reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others. So, if I were to choose between spending time with an vaccinated person or an unvaccinated person, I would definitely choose the vaccinated person because they have a much lower likelihood of having COVID-19.

That said, breakthrough infections can happen and as you mentioned, there are all kinds of mild symptoms that may resemble a cold or the flu or some other viral illness.

And so, if someone is worried at all, if you're just not feeling quite yourself and feeling rundown and having any kind of symptom, you should definitely make sure to get tested.

And in the meantime, if you're living at home with unvaccinated individuals, unvaccinated children or immunocompromised people, stay away from them until you get your test results back.

This is the time that we just have to be vigilant because there is a high level of coronavirus transmission in many parts of the U.S. and many parts of the world, use a high index of suspicion, make sure to get tested, don't go to work. Don't be around other vulnerable individuals when you have symptoms.

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VAUSE: So, basically, it's -- we're in a better position now in terms we can get those tests at a pharmacy that are available for sale over the counter. We know sort of what to do. Self-isolation is a key to all of this.

So, the -- from that point of view, even though we have this variant, the Delta variant which is more contagious, we are in a much better position to try and deal with it, at least in theory.

WEN: Yes, we are, we definitely know how to handle COVID-19 if somebody becomes severely ill a lot more than we did at the beginning of the pandemic. We also have a lot more tools.

I mean, we have the vaccine, most importantly to prevent infection in the first place. But we also have readily available testing. We know what works. And I think it's important for people to understand to have the information to protect themselves and their families.

VAUSE: Dr. Wen, thank you, it's always good to see you. We appreciate the advice as well.

WEN: Thank you.

VAUSE: New daily infections hit a record high Tuesday in South Korea. And the surge comes after the government extended pandemic restrictions two weeks ago.

Manisha Tank following development for us live from Singapore. And two weeks ago, they saw this coming. And so, they extended the social distancing requirements across the country. And yet, here we are, more infections than ever before.

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Yes, that's right, more infections than ever before. And what we're seeing over in that country, were obviously, you know, in the recent months, we saw a surge of COVID-19. We're seeing it in other places in Asia as well, John.

Let's just talk about places like South Korea, where the Delta variants which we first saw in India has really begun to worry people in a big way, we now have cases daily coming in at more than 2,000.

And even the president there has weighed in on this, urging people to observe the restrictions, observe all the measures that are in place, because this is a worrying figure, when you have cases coming in in excess of 2,000 every day.

You'll recall the pictures more than a year ago, South Korea that people saw all over the world, people lining up in drive through testing centers, something that was repeated in other parts of the world to which really illustrated how well they were getting across this. But that was of course before that Delta variant came along, which is really wreaked havoc in other parts of Asia.

So, we've had also the health ministry coming out and realizing that it isn't just the Delta variant. It's also pandemic fatigue that is causing these jumping cases in South Korea.

Elsewhere, I want to bring you up to speed on China, 111 new cases reported there. And what's interesting here is we're seeing that across six provinces.

Now, this means that we have these pockets and 20 high risk areas which have already been (INAUDIBLE) over which the government has already raised the alarm. So, what does this mean? It calls into question for some and questions are surfacing around the sustainability of China's zero COVID policy, particularly now that the Delta variant is on its soil. We know and we spoke about 24 hours ago on this how Beijingers are being told don't leave the city, unless it's for an emergency, you won't be able to travel and restrictions have been heightened in different parts of the countries, new quarantines and also checks on those who want to travel or have traveled.

I want to jump though now to Australia, the Asia Pacific region very much being hit by Delta and Australia was another one where the hope was that COVID-19 could remain outside its borders, not the case. More than 6,000 cases in New South Wales.

But we are now hearing that in Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, we could see an extension of a lockdown. It was meant to end August 12th but it looks like that could be extended for another week.

And the Premier there Daniel Andrews is putting this down to those more than 6,000 cases in New South Wales. So very much a story to watch there, John.

VAUSE: Manisha, thank you. Manisha Tank there live for us in Singapore.

Well, three major airlines have announced they won't require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Delta, Southwest, American Airlines are encouraging workers to get their shots without making it mandated. In May, Delta change its policy to require all new hires to be fully vaccinated.

Meantime, United Airlines is requiring all employees be vaccinated by October 25th or they risk being terminated.

Still ahead, surrounded by fire and nowhere to go. Greek villages refusing to evacuate and join the fight against the wildfires raging across the country.

And Brazil's president delivers a message to legislators he -- and he may have used his military's might to do it, we'll explain how they're responding. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:27:00]

VAUSE: Almost $600 million in emergency aid has been promised by the government of Greece for those affected by wildfires raging across the country. Many living on the island of Evia are refusing to leave, instead they're working alongside firefighters.

In Algeria, at least 43 people, more than half of them firefighters have been killed battling the flames.

And in the United States, the Dixie Fire as it's called is already the second biggest in California state history. It's destroyed more than 900 structures. Now burning through a national park.

CNN's Eleni Giokos starts off now with the -- from the Greek island of Evia.

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ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ablaze so powerful, engulfing entire forests. Apocalyptic scenes capturing the devastation. Older residents escaping their homes.

Evia is now sitting in the eye of the storm when it comes to the fires that are ravaging Greece. We have seen fire upon fire over the past eight days and now you're also seeing international assistance on the ground. What you see behind me is firefighters from Slovakia, as well as local firefighters.

Hundreds evacuated onto ferries watching the island burn. Despite the blaze approaching, some opting to stay behind to protect their homes.

They say they won't leave, they're ready to fight the fire.

Emotions are high in Evia.

NIKOS, EVIA, GREECE RESIDENT: Now the game is lost that everyone is coming. What to save? Now we're seeing just the same. The little piece of (INAUDIBLE) are send some villas that are not burned. All the others are burned. They forgot us. GIOKOS: Local volunteers standing by with fire extinguishers and even branches say it's too late.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitting they were weaknesses in the response.

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, GREEK PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The extent of the destruction especially in Evia and in Attica, blackens all of our hearts. And I am the first to apologize for whatever weakness has existed.

I completely understand the pain of our citizens who saw their houses and property burning. The upheaval of having to abruptly leave their homes.

GIOKOS: The source of these wildfires the prime minister says is the climate crisis, the country is experiencing heat waves. The highest temperatures seen in almost 40 years.

22 countries have sent help to Greece, including France, Romania, Slovakia and Poland. They've sent firefighters, fire engines, as well as other resources.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here to support the Greek kings in this big fight with the fires.

GIOKOS: It's a combination of this camaraderie between countries and people, and the locals who are determined to save the island from further devastation.

Eleni Giokos, CNN, Evia, Greece.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Let's take a look right now at the fire emergency across Europe and Northern Africa. This data comes from one of NASA satellites. And the flame show where the fires are but they don't actually reflect the size of these places.

European fire -- Forest Fire Information System estimates more than 620,000 hectares have burned so far this year.

That's where these fires are burning at this hour.

[00:30:12]

So along with the global fire threat, we're also tracking new developments in the Caribbean, where a tropical storm has just formed. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is there. He joins us now live.

You've got a busy time ahead of you.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we do. A very active season here, not only across fire activity and extreme heat but, of course, the tropical season. John, you know that this -- Imagine just being an astronomer, an

astronaut on top -- inside the International Space Station there, kind of looking down and seeing the perspective as such.

This data on the satellite, as you noted, coming in from the geostationary weather satellites. It's about 35,000 kilometers above. Looking down, we've kind of dotted the landscape here with the thermal signature of the fires, not across southern portions of Europe but this is across Siberia.

There's tremendous coverage there. Something happening for the first time in history. We have smoke reaching the North Pole, first time in satellite record history here.

We're seeing that extend quite farther and farther and farther towards the north. The coverage of fires across our planet.

And again, if you were up there at the ISS looking down, it would be an incredible sight to see what is happening at the surface of our planet here, with wildfires, smoke, and of course, as you noted, a tropical system.

When it comes to the fires. And you take the amount of consumed in this region, it's larger than in many current fires put together, in terms of area consumed. Again, speaks to what is happening right now across our planet.

Some of the images out of Greece, look at such here, with the remnants of a church back from the 18th century that has been destroyed. Of course, the incredible terrain the firefighters here have to battle, the fire activity in recent days.

And I want to show you what's happening across the Atlantic. Because yes, Tropical Storm Fred forms, and this is a couple of weeks ahead of the letter "F" storm would typically form. Typically comes in in late August, happening here in the first half of August.

But the system is sitting just south of Puerto Rico at this hour, and that's an area we have hurricane warnings in place for hurricane conditions to occur within the next few hours. Winds could gust at over 120 plus kilometers per hour there.

But the storm is poised to move right across portions of the Dominican Republic by tomorrow. And we want to show you where the models are taking it here. Because pretty good confidence it will ride across portions of Hispaniola.

Very mountainous islands here over the next 12 or so hours. And the models still in basic agreement that it will work itself just across northern shores of Cuba.

And then beyond that, once we get into, say, Sunday and Monday, that's when -- really, why differences occur. And as is expected, four or five days out. But here's what it looks like.

We think the interaction with a very mountainous chain of islands here should keep the storm system as a weaker end storm. Quite a bit of rainfall on the route. It could enter portions of the Gulf of Mexico. It could take an easterly track. If it does so, that is the case. Again, more land interaction, John, would mean a lot of rainfall for a lot of people, but lesser and of wind here.

So we think it could be a strong tropical storm on approach. Of course, if this veers little farther towards the left, once it enters the Gulf, more water to work with, could easily get up to a hurricane. So we're going to follow this here over the next several days -- John.

VAUSE: Thanks, Pedram. Appreciate the update. Pedram Javaheri, we appreciate it.

Now, in the past few hours, Brazilian lawmakers voted down President Jair Bolsonaro's proposal to include paper ballots in next year's presidential election.

The man called the Trump of the Tropics has claimed the vote, conducted electronically, will be rife with fraud and he won't accept the results without paper backups.

Now his opponents accuse him of intimidation by using tanks and soldiers.

CNN's Matt Rivers explains.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a very unusual military parade that took place on Tuesday morning in the Brazilian federal district of Brasilia has prompted a lot of criticism from the left and right to be directed at Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the timing of that military parade.

We have some video of the parade that we can show you. More than 100 different vehicles were involved. It didn't actually last very long with Bolsonaro himself overseeing the parade.

The official reason happening for this parade was that this was some sort of elaborate way for the Brazilian military to formally invite Jair Bolsonaro to attend upcoming military drills that are set to be led by the Brazilian navy.

At one point during the parade, a Brazilian officer actually walks up and hands Jair Bolsonaro an invitation. But here's the thing. These drills are not new. They've taken place every year for more than two decades now.

And never before have tanks been required to deliver an invitation to the sitting president of Brazil to attend. So that's left the critics saying, Well, there are other reasons why this parade happened when it did.

And they point to a vote that also took place on Tuesday, a key place of legislation that lawmakers in Brazil put it on that was pushed by Bolsonaro himself.

This was a piece of legislation that would have required paper ballots to be a part of next year's presidential election. He says without those ballots he's afraid that there will be rampant fraud in those elections, despite not providing any proof as to exactly what that fraud would be.

[00:35:12]

But he said, without those ballots, he's not willing to accept the results, or might not be willing to accept the results of next year's presidential election.

Critics are saying that this parade took place for two different reasons. One, for Bolsonaro to show that he has control over the military. But two, critics say that he did this as a clear or perhaps thinly disguised attempt to influence lawmakers ahead of that vote.

And it's not just his critics saying that. The president of the Brazilian House chamber, who's also a Bolsonaro political ally, called the timing of the parade a tragic coincidence, and said that because this military act took place when it did, it opens up the space for people to, quote, "speculate" that there was some sort of pressure being put on lawmakers.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Still to come, Britain's Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace remain silent over that lawsuit alleging sexual abuse. And that is significant. We'll tell you why in a moment.

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VAUSE: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will leave office in two weeks. He resigned Tuesday after an investigation confirmed allegations of sexual harassment from 11 different women.

Cuomo said he had never any intention of making anyone feel uncomfortable, but he acknowledged the scandal and said it had become a distraction to his job.

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GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): And I would never want to be unhelpful in any way. And I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing.

And therefore, that's what I will do, because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you. Because as we say, it's not about me. It's about we.

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VAUSE: State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will replace Cuomo, becoming the state's first female governor. Here's what CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson had to say about this.

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JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In 2019, this governor signed legislation here in New York which would make it more favorable for victims to come forward. How? Extending the statute of limitations from one year to three years, eliminating the component in the law that said it had to be persistent, right, and pervasive in terms of severe and pervasive discrimination. No, it doesn't have to be that at all.

One incident, if the proper incident and the proper misconduct could constitute, in fact, a violation and a whole host of other things that make it more likely that victims could come forward, including not even reporting. Right? Before you had to report it. Now, you don't have to report.

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VAUSE: Stepping down does not mean these allegations go away. At least one accuser has filed a criminal complaint. And there is also a possibility of civil suits, as well.

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Buckingham Palace and the legal team for Britain's Prince Andrew are refusing to comment on new sexual abuse lawsuits. But it's not the first time these allegations against Prince Andrew have come to light.

CNN's Nina Dos Santos reports.

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NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Virginia Giuffre around the time she says she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew. A photo taken at the London house of socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, facing trial for procuring minors for the later pedophile Jeffrey Epstein; charges she has pled not guilty to.

When this shot was snapped in 2001, Giuffre was just 17. Prince Andrew was around 40.

VIRGINIA GIUFFRE, PRINCE ANDREW ACCUSER: He knows what happened. I know what happened, and there's only one of us telling the truth, and I know that's me.

DOS SANTOS: In a civil suit filed this week in New York, Giuffre alleges the prince abused her in three locations, including at Epstein's mansion in Manhattan, and on his private Caribbean island.

She says the prince knew she was underage, and she had been trafficked there.

The complaint, filed under state child protection laws, details allegations first described by Giuffre 2015 and seeks damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

Prince Andrew's legal team declined to comment on the development. In the past, the royal has strenuously denied he's ever met Giuffre, whose maiden name is Roberts, and has suggested that the photo of them together could be fake.

PRINCE ANDREW, UNITED KINGDOM: I can absolutely, categorically tell you it never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you recall any kind of sexual attack with Virginia Roberts? Then --

PRINCE ANDREW: None.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- or any other time?

PRINCE ANDREW: None whatsoever.

DOS SANTOS: Prince Andrew offered to cooperate with investigators in 2019 in this disastrous TV interview, and has since repeated that pledge in a written statement when resigning from royal duties.

Giuffre's lawyer, though, say he's been stonewalling since.

For this author, who's written a book on the prince and Epstein. The legal drama means it's unlikely Andrew will make it back into the royal fold soon.

NIGEL CAWTHORNE, AUTHOR, "PRINCE ANDREW: EPSTEIN AND THE PALACE": The new civil lawsuit from Virginia Giuffre certainly precludes Prince Andrew from returning to public duties.

It's very difficult to see how he can come back to the frontline of the monarchy, as he's expressed a wish to, with this suit pending or if there's a call found against him in absentia.

DOS SANTOS (on camera): Buckingham Palace declined to comment on Giuffre's suit. In the past, it has highlights some uncomfortable questions about the princes relationship with unknown sex offender long after Jeffrey Epstein's death.

Nina Dos Santos, CNN, in London.

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VAUSE: Well, the football legend who wanted to begin and end his career with Barcelona is now officially part of Paris Saint-Germain.

Lionel Messi made his debut in the French capital to seal the deal, which is reportedly a two-year contract worth more than $40 million a year.

That's far less than he was making at Barca, but still more than most other clubs could afford. PSG will formally unveil their new star recruit at a news conference later on Wednesday.

For more of the big move, that's coming up in WORLD SPORT after a short break. That does it for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. I'll be back with you at the top of the hour. See you soon. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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