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Senate Approves $3.5 Trillion Budget Resolution; Tropical Storm Fred Forms in the Caribbean Sea; Almost 1,000 Firefighters Deployed to Evia, Greece; Greenville, CA City Center Burned Out by Wildfire; Louisiana Reports Rise in Vaccination as Cases Surge; Hospitals Admitting More Children as Delta Variant Spreads; China Convicts Canadian Businessman of Espionage Charges. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 04:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... progressive colleagues warn they won't vote for it until the $3.5 trillion package passes. Democrats are immediately turning to the next part of Biden's economic agenda with hopes of passing a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would in turn him advance the priorities that they left on the cutting room floor of the bipartisan talks.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The two-track strategy is proceeding full steam ahead.

COLLINS (voice-over): But first there will be a marathon of votes with Sen. Mitch McConnell warning of hundreds of GOP amendments.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We will debate and we will vote and we will stand up and we will be counted.

COLLINS: And Senator McConnell and those other 18 Republicans who voted to advance this infrastructure bill did so against the wishes of former President Trump who tried to derail the efforts on several occasions and even threatened to primary some of those Republicans who voted to get the bill passed.

Of course, there is still a long road ahead because it actually becomes law. That is because it has to go through the House and they have said that they will not take this up until they get that much bigger more ambitious package that they would also like to see among the progressives and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But Biden told reporters that he is confident both will happen.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And in just the past few minutes, the Senate approved the $3.5 trillion budget resolution Kaitlan Collins mentioned there.

Well, just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, firefighters in Greece say it could take months to bring the country's raging wildfires completely under control. We are live on the island of Evia.

Plus, a new tropical storm is bringing high winds and heavy rain to the Caribbean. We will have the latest forecast after a short break.



CHURCH: Scary video from Arizona which has been plagued with weeks of monsoons and flash floods. Multiple reports of fast water rescues on Tuesday, including this one where a man had to be pulled to safety after a flash flood overwhelmed his truck.

And we are tracking a new tropical storm that's developed in the Caribbean. Tropical storm Fred is the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is tracking the storm -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Rosemary. Yes, we do have tropical storm Fred and this is a storm system that climatologically, the F storm forms in latter portions of the month of August. Of course, is the 11th and a little ahead of schedule here, but we've got ourselves a 40-mile-per-hour storm gusting upwards of 50 miles per hour just south of Puerto Rico. That is precisely where we have hurricane warnings in place at this hour. And that really stretches along the Virgin Islands and back toward the west there across portions of the Dominican Republic.

This is a storm system that is projected to move directly across these islands, a very mountainous region and eventually reemerge back around portions of the Caribbean and potentially in the Gulf of Mexico. All of these areas water temperatures, these are degrees Celsius, 28 degrees Celsius, is 82 degrees Fahrenheit. That is where you want to be for a tropical system the form. And guess what, there into the 30 Celsius for into the 90s Fahrenheit in spots. So, plenty of warmth in the waters to support a system to strengthen.

But when you take a look at the track and its trajectory of the storm, a lot of land interaction is expected to keep the storm at bay. Notice the cone of uncertainty does stretch over portions of water and also land. So, if it favors more of the water, this could be a stronger storm. If it favors more of the land, especially across the mountains of Cuba, it'll be a weaker storm on approach to the United States.

At this point we're expecting one on the weaker end. It would be a strong tropical storm as it reemerges across portions of the Gulf. And here's high pressure in place, the steering environment is such that guided into the Western portion of the state of Florida. So, we'll follow it carefully and see exactly where this goes as we approach late this weekend and early next week -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Thanks so much for that, Pedram, appreciate it.

Well, the Prime Minister of Greece is pledging almost $600 million in emergency aid for people affected by the country's raging wildfires. Many villagers on the island of Evia are refusing to leave their homes, instead working alongside firefighters to battle the flames. CNN's Eleni Giokos is live in Evia, Greece. She joins us now. Good to see you, Eleni. So what is the latest on efforts to contain these fires and of course the impact on residents there?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. Look, we have heard from emergency services this morning that rekindling of fires is a reality today and that is the big risk. You can hear the helicopters above. We've seen helicopters move in various directions carrying water. We also know the visibility is still very much a problem.

I don't know if you can see this wind today, every day we've spoken, Rosemary, we haven't seen wind, which was actually a very good thing. This now perhaps creating another risk. What you see around me is, you know, olive plantations and we spoke to firefighters, this is what they are trying to save, whatever is left of Evia and plantations and pristine and virgin forests.

When we spoke to the firefighters this morning that had been working for 48 hours straight, they say that they fear that this could carry on for months. And the problem is, is when you get a fire under control, is that it keeps burning slowly. We went to some of those forests that have been decimated and you still see smoke coming from the ground.

And that is what your also seeing in other parts of Greece, in the Peloponnese. We spoke to emergency services and they say there are active fires there. It's once again rekindling of fires. So, the situation is still very much dire.

Now when we hear from the Prime Minister, he has said that he apologizes for the weaknesses in response, but he also announced measures, tax breaks, remunerations for victims, for households to assist the people that have been affected around the country -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Eleni Giokos joining us live for Evia, Greece, many thanks for that.

Well, wildfires are also sweeping through the Western United States. The Dixie Fire in California is already the second biggest fire in state history, and it is only 25 percent contained. CNN's Camila Bernal has our report from hard hit Greenville, California.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Firefighters have made some progress and containment has gone up, but for communities like this one, it is just too late. Greenville will never be the same again.


If you look here behind me, this used to be a hotel and then across the street here, this is what used to be a locally owned drug store, down the street a hair salon, all of it nonexistent at the moment. And those families are having to deal with this loss. I spoke to a local volunteer firefighter who grew up here and Will Meyers says that he watched as the flames approached his town, this is what he told us.

WILL MEYERS, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: It was gut-wrenching. Just knowing that there was so little that we could do to save it. The wall of flame was just rolling into town, propane tanks were exploding everywhere. Really felt like we were in a warzone.

BERNAL: And I've talked to other firefighters, one who described the fire as God being angry. Another one describing it as a stubborn fire saying that sometimes it's calm but then it takes off again. A lot of these firefighters are frustrated. They are tired, but they know there is still a lot of work to be done.

The weather is not cooperating. The entire week we're expecting temperatures approaching 100 degrees. The high temperatures and the low humidity all contributing to what will likely be a fire that continues to grow over the next couple of days.

Camila Bernal, CNN, Greenville, California.


CHURCH: The COVID-19 pandemic is worsening among America's children. Pediatric ICUs are filling up with kids and teens infected with the delta variant. Ahead, why experts and hospitals are warning it is going to get worse.



CHURCH: Parts of Louisiana are reporting an uptick in the pace of COVID vaccinations, an encouraging sign for a state hit hard by the virus. And officials say they are seeing more younger people getting the shot. That is good news as the country sees a spike in cases among children and teens. In New Orleans the spike is alarming authorities, and hospitals warn it could get worse. CNN's him Nick Valencia has our report.


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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to breathe. Is that helping, that oxygen helping you?


VALENCIA (voice over): 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's since lost 20 pounds.



EDWARDS: He couldn't do anything, yes.

BENNETT: He vomit a lot. He's sweating more.

EDWARDS: Oh, yes.

BENNETT: He expressed his discomfort more. We just knew it.

VALENCIA (voice over): 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.

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

VALENCIA (voice over): There are 18 children being treated for COVID here, six are in the pediatric ICU. Kendall Jaffe is one of the ICU nurses. She's worked here throughout the pandemic and says it's never been this bad.

KENDAL JAFFE, ICU NURSE, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: 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 (voice over): 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 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: You know mom and dad are really worried about you and the doctors here and helping you out a lot.


VALENCIA (voice over): 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 has them rethinking their decisions.

EDWARDS: I would heed everyone to take precaution because it's serious. It's 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're getting there. We are getting there.

VALENCIA: 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 is even more troubling is what doctors say here they expect to happen is with the school year starting back up, that we're nowhere near as bad as it will ultimately get.

Nick Valencia, CNN, New Orleans.


CHURCH: And still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, convicted of espionage in China, a Canadian businessman faces a long prison sentence. Why the verdict may be linked to another legal case thousands of miles away. We're back in a moment.



CHURCH: A local official confirms a ninth provincial capital in Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban. Faizabad is in the northern part of the country. The official says government forces were retreated to a neighboring province early Wednesday morning local time. The official said both sides suffered heavy losses.

Well, Canada's Prime Minister is calling it unacceptable and unjust. China's conviction of a Canadian businessman on espionage charges and a prison sentence of 11 years handed down just hours ago. Michael Spavor was detained in 2018 along with another Canadian, Michael Kovrig, both were arrested after a top executive at the Chinese tech giant Huawei was arrested in Canada.

So, let's bring in CNN's Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. Kristie, what is likely the legal move next and could there be room for negotiation here?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the hope right now and I'll explain that in a moment. Look, after more than two years in detention in China, finally a verdict in the case of the detained Canadian businessman, Michael Spavor, a court in Liaoning, China earlier today sentenced him to 11 years in prison for espionage. And also said that he could be deported and some Western observers are interpreting that ambiguity saying that came open the door to possible negotiation about his fate. I want you to listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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


STOUT (on camera): It was June last year when Michael Spavor, along with fellow Canadian, the former diplomat, Michael Kovrig, were charged with espionage in China. They were arrested in China December of 2018.


Shortly after Canadian police officers detained Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. She is of course the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, also the daughter of the CEO of Huawei Ren Zhengfei. And she has been charged of misleading HSBC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran potentially causing the bank to break or violate U.S. sanctions laws.

So, she has pleaded not guilty. She is fighting extradition while under house arrest. And China meanwhile is insisting that there is no link here between the two detained Canadians and the case of Meng Wanzhou. But Western observers say this is an example of hostage diplomacy. Earlier today a very strongly worded statement was issued by the U.S. embassy against the sentence sentencing of Michael Spavor. Back to you.

CHURCH: Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

Well, getting the COVID vaccine paid off for one teen in Nevada quite literally. She won $20,000 to put towards her college tuition just for getting the shot. It's part of a vaccine lottery put together by the state. 13-year-old Caylee says she just wanted to get vaccinated before summer camp and didn't know about the potential prize money. So, the phone call telling her she had won came as a big surprise.


CAYLEE, WON COVID LOTTERY: I had just woken up, I was in my PJs, my hair was all over the place. And I was like OK, cool, I'll go eat breakfast.

Definitely get the vaccine because like I said, it is free. And it just takes so much -- it takes so little time for such big of an effect.


CHURCH: Great message there. And think you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. For our viewers in the United States, "EARLY START" is coming up next. For everyone else, stick around for a WORLD SPORT special on Lionel Messi's move to Paris Saint-Germain just after the break.