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U.N. Chief Calls for Investigation into Saudi-Led Strike That Killed Yemen Children; Indonesia's Lombok On Edge After Aftershock Hits; Lion Habitat Is Shrinking Animals Compete Space; NASA Probe Will fly Closer To Sun Than Any Craft Before. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:01] GEORGE HOWELL, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: -- California, a state of emergency declared there, the death toll climbing, and fires burning even closer to people's homes.

NATALIE ALLEN, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: And later this hour, it's World Lion Day as lion populations plummet. Hear how one group is using an animated animal to try and help save them. Hello from Atlanta. Thank you for joining us. Welcome back to vacationing George. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell from CNN news headquarters. The Newsroom starts right now. Around the world, good day to you, we begin with the terrible images out of Yemen after dozens of children were killed and maimed by an airstrike. Many of the pictures from the site, they are just too awful to put on television. And we warn you the next video you will see it is very, very difficult to watch. It shows one little survivor of the attack.

ALLEN: He was still wearing his small blue backpack. Oh my goodness, when rescuers brought him in. Like the other children on the bus, he was on his way to summer school when his world was shattered.

HOWELL: The airstrike in the northern province of Saada was launched by Saudi-led coalition forces who are backed by the United States. The coalition justified the attack as a legitimate military action directed at Houthi rebels. We have more on the story now from CNN's Nima Elbagir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A U.S. State Department spokesperson has now called for a thorough investigation. But this comes after many, many calls for both the U.S. and the U.K. to stop blocking action in the U.S. Security Council in June, during intensifying strikes against the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, the last remaining lifeline for supplies into the country. Both the U.S. and the U.K. blocked even just a statement calling for a ceasefire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are children on the bus. We do have (Inaudible) cannot accept high civilian casualty is one of the point that we are (Inaudible) our (Inaudible) casualties (Inaudible). We cannot accept high casualty in Yemen. ELBAGIR: Many of those on the ground are concerned that despite the

horror of what we have seen, despite of the images being beamed around the world, that nothing much will change. That the torturously slow, onward grind of the war in Yemen will continue. The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition has said that they will continue in their strikes and has not made clear whether there will be an investigation. Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Condemnation of the attack has been almost universal. The regional director of UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa said the war in Yemen must stop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To those parties who are fighting that brutal war on children in Yemen, to those who are supporting those wars, fighting the war, to the members of the Security Council, one simple message. Stop this brutal war on children. Children have suffered enough in Yemen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with CNN Military Analyst, Rick Francona, live via Skype from Oregon this hour. Rick, thank you so much for your time today. Given what we know from this airstrike in Yemen, an airstrike hitting a school bus filled with children, condemnation coming from all corners around the world. What do you make of the Saudi response to it?

RICK FRANCONA, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: Oh, this claim that this was a legitimate military target they were going after a group of Houthis that fired a ballistic missile at them, there is no excuse to hit a civilian market, none. That school bus happened to be in that market and was hit. And now we have this terrible death toll.

We see these images all over. There is no way to justify this. The Saudis are wrong here, and they need to stop doing this. We need to put pressure on them to start adhering to real military protocols. We worked with the Saudis a long time, and we tried to teach them the proper way to do this. And what they did is absolutely against everything we've showed them.

HOWELL: You mentioned this. But again, what we're hearing from the Saudi-led coalition, they say the target was not intended for civilians. Again, in your expert opinion, pushing ahead in that, do you believe that to be the case?

FRANCONA: It's hard for me to fathom that, George, because they are flying state of the art, fourth-generation fighter bombers, using precision-guided munitions, using the best intelligence that we often provide to them. There's no way that they hit that target by accident. It's just inconceivable to me that that wasn't the target.

[02:05:02] HOWELL: This war has been described by many around the world as the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen. And in fact, we've seen the airstrikes intensify in recent months. Does either side have an out in this fighting? Is there ground for diplomacy, or do you see the carnage to continue there?

FRANCONA: No one wants to be the first one to give. This has been a tit for tat, back and forth. If you say why was this airstrike launched, they're going to say it was in response to a ballistic missile fired at Saudi Arabia. Then you say why did you fire at Saudi Arabia, then the Houthis will say well, that's because they had airstrikes against us.

It just goes on and on and on. It's this unending cycle. Someone is going to have to stop, and they're both going to have to sit down at the table. That's the hard part. Neither wants to be the first one to stop.

HOWELL: Saudi Arabia certainly front and center in this. But look, there are nations certainly that supply Saudi Arabia with the missiles, the United States, the United Kingdom. We heard this response from the spokesperson from the U.S. State Department. Let's listen. We can talk about it here in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're certainly concerned about these reports that resulted -- that there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of civilians. We call on the Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: OK. So statements like that, Rick, compared to images that we've seen, the sounds that we've heard of children screaming in hospitals. Does that put more pressure on these governments to put pressure on Saudi Arabia?

FRANCONA: Every time this has happened, we see a lot of civilian casualties in these airstrikes, particularly in Yemen. And nothing seems to change and we keep calling for the investigations, and the Saudis say it was a valid military target, but we'll look into it. And then they continue to do it. And of course, we're in a difficult position with the Saudis.

You could supply weapons, and once they're there, no matter what restrictions you put on them, they always end up in the wrong hands. We've tried this in Afghanistan. We've tried it in Iraq. We're trying it now in Syria. The weapons always find their way to either illicit use or into the wrong hands. So very difficult, and we try to maintain our relationship with the Saudis because they're key in our standing up to Iran.

So, you know, we're kind of in a difficult position here too. But we've got to impress on the Saudis that they cannot continue this way. This is not how to resolve the situation Yemen.

HOWELL: Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, live for us in the U.S. state of Oregon. We always appreciate your time and perspective. We'll keep in touch with you as this war continues to rage on.

FRANCONA: Good to be with you.

ALLEN: Developing story we're following in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Taliban fighters have stormed Ghazni province from four directions.

HOWELL: That's right. A government spokesman says the fighting is still ongoing there. There are reports of casualties as well. We're also told the Ghazni security forces were able to drive most of the militant forces out of the city center. But one group of Taliban is holed up in a building and firing at the police headquarters. We'll of course, bring you more information on this developing story as it becomes available.

ALLEN: In the United States, a federal judge is threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of court. The judge ruled the Trump administration cannot deport immigrants while they're waiting for their court hearing.

HOWELL: But for two asylum seekers, it was almost too late. CNN's Tal Kopan reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAL KOPAN, POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Well, it was a dramatic day in a Washington, D.C. courtroom today as a federal judge was hearing a plea from a group of asylum seekers who were trying to challenge their deportation orders and broader policies from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, making it harder for them to seek asylum in the U.S.

But as the court hearing was happening, in a brief break, one of the attorneys got word that two of their clients were already on a plane being deported back to El Salvador. Now, when the attorney brought this to the judge's attention, the judge was reportedly frustrated and borderline furious at the government for doing so, after having told him the day before that it wouldn't do such a thing.

And he ordered the plane either turned around or those immigrants brought back to the country immediately. And he went so far as to say that if that didn't happen, he would be ordering officials like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen into his courtroom to justify why he shouldn't hold them in contempt of court.

Now, after this court proceeding happened, the government did, in fact, bring those individuals back to the U.S. They landed in El Salvador, were turned around, and our understanding is they are now back in the United States. But there is a long road ahead for this hearing. And at the end of the day, the judge is saying the government may not deport any of these immigrants fighting for their right to stay in the U.S. until he at least has time to weigh their arguments going forward. Tal Kopan, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:10:02] ALLEN: Let's talk more about it. Joining me now from Woodland, California, Holly Cooper, she's the co-director of UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic. Ms. Cooper thanks so much for talking with us. What a story this is, just the picture we had there of that plane going down to El Salvador, turning around, coming back. This judge was outraged at this administration. What's your reaction to this story?

HOLLY COOPER, CO-DIRECTOR, UC DAVIS IMMIGRATION LAW CLINIC: Well, this case from the very beginning has really been about our country and the separation of powers, and whether we're going to allow the executive branch to trample on the courts. And the lawsuit in part says that Jeff Sessions has overstepped his authority by failing to abide by court's rulings on asylum-seeking law.

So when he seeks to then take the lead plaintiffs in this very case and put them on a plane so that they can't have their day in court, it becomes even more about the balance of powers in this country. And the judge in this particular case, Judge Emmett Sullivan, showed to Jeff Sessions exactly what that separation of powers is about.

ALLEN: Right. And the government maintained that this particular case, that this asylum seeker, did not meet their credible fear threshold. What is that in the Trump administration's view?

COOPER: So the credible fear process is a process that anybody coming to this count, who is caught at the border, or seeking admission at the border must go through it. It's like a pre-screening. So the asylum office looks at your case and says, do we think that there is a fear here? And if there is, they're supposed to give you a full hearing in front of an immigration court, a full trial on your asylum case.

And what happened, the big issue that happened in this particular case is Jeff Sessions says, well, we're no longer going to give women who are coming to this country afraid for their lives, because of domestic violence, the opportunity to apply for asylum. And he's basically shut down that avenue for women and children coming to this country.

And so this case is really also about women's rights and the rights of women to seek protection against domestic violence. And this case demonstrates, you know, through the facts of this case, this particular woman who is being deported was under immense danger in her home country. And the judge essentially, as you said, turned the plane around and brought her back to safety.

ALLEN: Right. According to the lead attorney for the ACLU in this case, the administration had pledged Wednesday that no one would be deported until at least midnight at the end of Thursday, that's about two hours ago. And then they turned around, and in violation of the judge's order, put her on a plane, and off she went. It makes you scratch your head why they did that.

COOPER: Well, I mean it's common that -- it's not the first time that the federal government, the immigration authorities have violated a court order. But in this particular case, it's very, very important because she's one of the lead plaintiffs suing Jeff Sessions, saying you're violating international and asylum law by not giving us a fair chance to show our claim under -- for political asylum on the basis of domestic violence.

And when you take that witness, that claimant, and you try to deport her, you're essentially obstructing a fair process, a fair judicial process, in which the judge obviously was very angry at that and ordered her to be brought back into the country immediately, or for Jeff Sessions and Nielsen to appear in court and to show cause as to why they should not be put under court sanctions.

ALLEN: Yes. He was reviewing the case. And in the midst of reviewing the case in court, off she went. So I want to ask you, though, this one judge and this one decision, how does this affect the bigger picture? Where does this go from here? Is this case, this case a sign that the Trump administration's method of dealing with asylum seekers and refugees is going to get pushback?

COOPER: I think so. I think that what this lawsuit alleges is that they're in violation of asylum law. You can't have a claim for domestic violence that's been recognized as a building block for decades, and then suddenly take the rug out from under asylum seekers and say we're no longer going to provide you protection in this country on this particular basis.

And more over, what Sessions really did that's very alarming is he said that you shouldn't -- asylum officers should no longer abide by judge's rulings, which is called circuit precedents as we call it as lawyers. And so I think that that's really alarming to say that as asylum officers, we no longer have to look at the law, and this judge is going to review that. And it's also ironic that in the same case, they tried to not obey the law by deporting the lead plaintiffs.

[02:15:00] ALLEN: And there are thousands on the border seeking asylum right now, and this continues on. Holly Cooper, we appreciate your expertise and your insights. Thank you so much for joining us.

COOPER: Thank you, Natalie.

HOWELL: And still ahead this hour, a U.S. congressman under fire for his comments on the Russia investigation, what Devin Nunes told Republican donors that has many people sounding the alarm.

ALLEN: Also, the Trump administration is proposing a new military branch. Guess where it's going? That's coming up.

HOWELL: Out of this world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back. More signs the U.S. and North Korea are struggling to find common ground.

HOWELL: Sources say North Korea keeps rejecting proposals from the U.S. in its denuclearization talks. And Pyongyang issued a statement, saying the U.S. government is not adhering to the spirit of the talks established during the Singapore summit in June. Following this story, CNN's Will Ripley live in Hong Kong this hour. Will, good to have you with us. Look, the goal for the United States

has always been CVID, standing for the complete, verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization, if I can say it today, of North Korea. Where is the U.S. on that, which sees it as the first step, North Korea seeing another step in that process?

WILL RIPLEY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yeah. Well, from the U.S. point of view, CVID hasn't happened. None of the letters have been fulfilled. Complete, there's no complete accounting of what North Korea even has in terms of their warheads, verifiable. There is no transparency on the part of North Koreans in terms of their weapons facilities and where they're enriching nuclear fuel.

You know obviously, irreversible, they haven't dismantled their capabilities. U.S. intelligence saying in fact, they've been building and adding to their capabilities. So denuclearization in the U.S. point of view has not occurred. Now from the North Korean point of view, if you read the statement that they sent to the United Nations from their permanent mission in New York.

They believe that the explosions of the tunnels at the (Inaudible) nuclear test site, the pause in nuclear testing since November, and also the return of U.S. service member purported remains. They believe that those are all steps that they have taken to try to build trust. And there's obviously a whole lot of mistrust between North Korea and the United States.

I'm going to read you a part of this statement to kind of build on that thought. The North Koreans said quote, we hoped that these good will measures would contribute to breaking down the high barrier of mistrust existing between the DPRK, that's North Korea, and the U.S. and to establishing mutual trust. However, the U.S. responded to our expectation by inciting international sanctions and pressure against the DPRK.

[02:20:07] So the North Koreans are very angry about sanctions. They're angry about the fact that the U.S. has not pushed to secure a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War, something that was a pledge made at the inter-Korean summit earlier this year with South Korea's President Park and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

And also, they basically want to see that the North Koreans say that the attitude of the U.S., the negotiators who came, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in early July, simply wasn't acceptable to them. They felt that the U.S. came in, made all these unilateral demands, kept repeating the demands. The North Koreans kept saying no.

This has led to gridlock. This is why a source told me earlier this week, George that the North Koreans would like to actually have a second summit with President Trump. They feel that they might get more results back face to face, Kim Jong-Un and Trump than they're getting with the nuclear negotiators right now.

HOWELL: Will there will be a second summit? We'll have to, as the President says, wait and see. Will Ripley, live for us in Hong Kong. Thank you, Will. ALLEN: Well, let's turn to the Russia investigation and a claim from

the U.S. President's attorney that the investigation must be completed by September. That is a claim that simply is not true.

HOWELL: Rudy Giuliani says the Justice Department rules prohibit such investigations within 60 days of an election. OK, here is the reality to that, though. The Justice Department advises prosecutors to avoid public disclosures about investigations within 60 days of an election.

ALLEN: Meantime, a leading House Republican is under fire for his secretly recorded comments about the Russia investigation.

HOWELL: We're talking about Congressman Devin Nunes. He has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. President. And these recorded comments. They call into question his true motives. CNN's Manu Raju has this report for us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: House Intelligence Chairman, Devin Nunes, in private confirming Democrats' long standing suspicions that he believes House Republicans must protect President Trump from Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's like your classic catch-22 situation where we're at a (Inaudible) it puts us in such a tough spot.

RAJU: Speaking at a private fundraiser for a House Republican leader, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Nunes was secretly recorded, saying the house GOP must retain the majority this fall for one clear reason.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Sessions won't unrecuse and Mueller won't clear the President, we're the only ones, which is really the danger. (Inaudible) we have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.

RAJU: It's the latest controversy in Nunes' tenure atop the powerful committee. Last year, he rushed to brief the President about his concerns in secret intelligence reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there, and I have a duty to tell him that.

RAJU: Despite later stepping aside from running the Russia probe, he continued to exert his influence, quashing Democratic attempts to call witnesses and subpoena records. Privately, he mounted his own investigation into the Justice Department to sow doubt over the Mueller probe, all earning praise from Trump.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: It is courageous, Congressman Devin Nunes.

RAJU: It culminated in the February release of the so-called Nunes memo, where the GOP contended that the FBI improperly obtained a warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, a conclusion Democrats reject.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's appalling. It's a misrepresentation.

RAJU: Yet, Nunes soldiered on, this time threatening to impeach Rod Rosenstein, the man who oversees the Mueller investigation, for not providing enough records to Congress. At the fundraiser, Nunes said impeachment should wait until after the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've said publicly, Rosenstein deserves to be impeached. So I don't think you're going to get any argument from most of our colleagues. The President (Inaudible) ran for the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: All right. That was CNN's Manu Raju reporting from Capitol Hill.

ALLEN: Well, the Special Counsel is expected to wrap its court case against Paul Manafort in the coming day. The judge in the trial says he was wrong to criticize prosecutors in front of the jury. Judge T.S. Ellis has clashed repeatedly with Mueller's team.

HOWELL: Manafort faces more than 300 years in prison if convicted of the fraud and tax evasion charges that are against him.

ALLEN: And he is the former campaign manager for Donald Trump.

HOWELL: That's right. The National Football League preseason is also back in full swing, and so are protests. Several players of the New York Giants knelt briefly in the end zone at their game against Cleveland, the Cleveland Browns.

[02:24:50] ALLEN: According to other reports, some players from the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt or raised their fists during the anthem. Others stayed in the locker room. The NFL policy requiring players on the field to stand, everyone stand for the anthem, is currently on hold. The league says none of Thursday's protesters will be punished.

The Trump administration hopes to make military inroads into the final frontier. Yes, that would be space.

HOWELL: Out of this world as we say. The Vice President of the United States says the U.S. will establish a new military branch. Mike Pence calling for the Space Force to start and be ready by 2020. Our Barbara Starr explains why the White House thinks this is so critical to American safety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Space Force, Space Force. So we have the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard. Now we're going to have the Space Force because it's a whole -- we need it.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: At the Pentagon, Vice President Mike Pence unveiling the White House plan.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE (R), UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.

STARR: Pence making the case the U.S. is under threat.

PENCE: Russia and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind, and disable our navigation and communication satellites.

STARR: In 2007, China used a missile to destroy one of its own out of date satellites. What if it had been targeting U.S. satellites?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What that means is it put every single thing that we have in space at risk. That includes GPS communications. It includes all of the communications satellites that we have, all of the things that we depend on nowadays for our daily life, was all of a sudden put at risk by that one action by the Chinese in 2007.

STARR: The Kremlin working on a similar threat.

PENCE: Russia's been designing an airborne laser to disrupt our space-based system, and it claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites.

STARR: Defense Secretary James Mattis was initially unenthusiastic about adding more bureaucracy to the Pentagon, telling Congress in 2017, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations. Mattis now says he's onboard with the plan. Congress would have to approve a new branch of the military, and there are questions if more military offices are the right solution for a 21st century threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is maybe the wrong bureaucracy for the problem.

STARR: And what if there was an attack against a U.S. satellite? One analyst says it could push American life back into the 1940s and 50s. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: President Trump's reelection team is launching into the Space Force idea. The Trump campaign says it plans to sell a new line of Space Force gear to celebrate what they call Mr. Trump's groundbreaking endeavor.

ALLEN: And they're asking supporters to vote for their favorite logo for the proposed military branch out of these options.

HOWELL: We're following massive fires burning across the U.S. state of California, fires that have forced a state of emergency declared and evacuations as well, details and the very difficult images to see there when we return. ALLEN: Also ahead this hour, Puerto Rico's government is now

admitting that the real death toll from Hurricane Maria last year is probably much higher than the official number. More about it as we push on here. You're watching CNN Newsroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:31:14] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Around the world, welcome back and good to have you with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories this hour. Dozens of children in Northern Yemen were killed Thursday when a Saudi coalition airstrike hit their school bus at a busy market. Many other people were killed and wounded as well. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called for an independent investigation. The Saudis said it was a legitimate military action directed at Houthi rebels which of course they're backed by Iran.

HOWELL: A diplomatic source tells CNN that Israel and Hamas have reached a ceasefire agreement. It's ending more than 24 hours of violence. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says three Palestinians were killed in the fighting. An Israeli official denies the ceasefire exists. Hamas has not yet commented.

ALLEN: In Brazil, the homicide rate has reached a record high. A study published by a Brazilian think tank says more than 63,000 people were intentionally killed in that country in 2017 last year. It calls the situation a devastating scenario.

HOWELL: In the U.S. State of California, the governor there has declared a state of emergency for Orange and Riverside Counties, this due to massive wildfires burning there. These new images show the holy fire burning southeast of Los Angeles. It is only five percent contained and has prompted mandatory evacuations of thousands of people.

ALLEN: We've been seeing fires in the northern part of the state. Now, this is Southern California. This video here obtained by CNN shows fire creeping up toward a home in the Town of Lake Elsinore. CNN's Stephanie Elam has more on this fire and others causing destruction all across the state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Responders are scrambling to save lives and contain the damage as fires blaze across California. These images from the holy fire in Orange County show what looks like a fire tornado. The smoke billowing as flames swirl along the hillside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm caught on fire. I'm burned.

ELAM: Authorities believe the holy fire was manmade allegedly started by this man, 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark, now behind bars and facing several felony arson charges. And if convicted, could spend the rest of his life in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know how this fire started? I have no idea. I was asleep. I had two earplugs in. I just woke up, dude. I got burned. So I woke up and my stuff was all on fire.

TODD SPITZER, ORANGE COUNTY SUPERVISOR: This is a monster who would go out with low humidity and high wind and the highest heat temperatures this time of the year and intentionally set the forest on fire.

MIKE MILLIGAN, HOLY JIM VOLUNTEER FIRE CHIEF: He needs to be in jail for the rest of his life. Truly does.

ELAM: Holy Jim volunteer Fire Chief Mike Milligan has known Clark for decades and showed us a text he says Clark sent him just weeks ago. It's all going to burn just like you planned, it read. Alleged behavior Milligan says he warned officials of in the past.

MILLIGAN: I said you have to take care of this or he's either going to burn something or kill somebody, you know, and that was three years ago.

ELAM: California's warm and dry conditions including July registering as the hottest month on record here have created the perfect storm for wildfires. Nearly 17,000 structures are threatened by three fires alone as thousands of people have evacuated their homes. More than 13,000 firefighters are battling 19 major fires across the entire state including what has already become the largest in California's history, the Mendocino Complex fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire.

[02:35:06] ELAM: On the front lines, a firsthand glimpse at how they're trying to fight it. Controlled burns help get rid of any potential fuel that could help spread the wildfire. This fire is huge, but why has it been able to grow so big?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, our first priority is protecting the communities and the homes. Secondly, in building our control lines, we have to use naturally occurring geographical features to help us control the fire.

ELAM: Back in Southern California, residents here are grappling with the possibility this destruction may be intentional. Already the second wildfire authorities here are calling arson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to say I'm not surprised. However, I feel -- I just feel terrible that this has all gone down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ELAM: And here in the midst of the holy fire, if you take a look, you can see that this neighborhood is severely under threat. Firefighters are out here making a stand, working to save these homes. And what is not helping them, the wind which is really picking up. This is what it does in the afternoon hours and when this really dry brush here, it is just the perfect storm for a wildfire to spread. So they are working here.

They're pulling water from the nearby lake and dropping it nearby on these hills beside these homes. But at the same time, they know that their work is not here that they are nowhere near containing this holy fire, and this just gives you an idea of what they're dealing with all across the state. Stephanie Elam, CNN, Lake Elsinore, California.

HOWELL: Stephanie, thank you. And if you could just imagine what it's like for those homes, you know, the people wondering whether their homes will still be there.

ALLEN: Ivan is here to tell us more about it and you add an arsonist to the mixed and poor California. I mean that's just horrifying.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And then the folks of course that have gone back and all they have is just a slab of what once was their homes. We've limited the amount of life we've lost, but one is too many, and we've had already more than that. And hopefully, we'll keep those numbers low, but the houses that continue to burn are continue to increase as is our fire danger. Let's talk about these fires in California.

We have actively 16 right now that are burning and these are the large ones. There are multiple smaller ones but these are the ones that are being attacked from the air, from the ground, basically all hands on deck with these fires as a result of just the incredible winds and heat and low humidity that we've had the last several days. This is what we call the Mendocino Complex. We have two fires burning here, one of which, the ranch fire, has eaten up 103,000-plus hectares.

It's only half contained. This one's doing better, the river fire with 87 percent containment. The problem is the conditions are going to continue to be quite bad here as far as the weather pattern is set up. This is the other fire that we're covering here, 4,100 hectares now, only five percent containment. This is the one in Southern California and that's going to be an issue. Look how many firefighters are out there, 1206. We've been talking about climate change.

We've been talking about how these events that are just going to continue here. And so far this year, we have had quite -- we had quite the number of heat waves and fires. I want to take you now to Portugal where things have gotten a bit out of control here across the southern part of Algarve region here. This is where we had that disruptive fire that killed upwards of 100 people last year. Well, now, this is now up to 23,000 hectares, 1,300 fire personnel here, and we have 300 people that have been evacuated.

This is in Southern Portugal where it is not raining. However, you go a bit further north and east, and we're going to continue to see this incredible amount of rain that has fallen across France. This is a system that fell yesterday. We notice how heavy the rain was, but we're now beginning to see the impacts. This occurred in 12 hours. I want to show you some of the pictures here because they are quite dramatic indeed across (INAUDIBLE) across Southern France. We've had numerous downpours. Look at this. There are rivers taking

over here. And the problem is we had campers, a lot of children just caught off guard here as a result of -- they had 50 to 100 millimeters of rainfall in two hours. And so the rivers and streams just overflowed and that's what you have here, so numerous rescues are still underway as a result of all that rain that has to evacuate and look what it's doing to some of the roads here.

Just incredible scenes coming out of Southern France where it's just a little bit to the west. Not a drop of rainfall there in Portugal and that's why we're on fire across the southern part of the state. Stay on top of that story. I think we may have an additional information coming out of that. It was a big event yesterday, Thursday, in Southern France.

HOWELL: Right.

ALLEN: Right. Ivan, thank you.

HOWELL: Ivan, thank you. All right. Torrential rainfall, days of torrential rain causing dangerous situations in Tibet. A massive landslide forced a major expressway to temporarily shut down. Take a look at that.

ALLEN: Yes. Severe flooding meantime trapped people inside their homes. Firefighters rescued at least 15 people. Look at this video we're getting. That's amazing. And more than 90 others had to be evacuated.

[02:40:01] Now, we turn to Puerto Rico where the government is admitting far more than 64 people died from Hurricane Maria last year. That number still stands as the official death toll.

HOWELL: That's right. But almost a year after the storm devastated that U.S. territory. Authorities say the real death toll is probably more like 1,400. CNN's Leyla Santiago explains why the numbers are drastically different.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The government of Puerto Rico now publicly acknowledging the excess in deaths following Hurricane Maria in the aftermath of it all. That number about 1,400 mentioned in this report which was sent to Congress on Wednesday night. Now, that said, even though the government is acknowledging that there was a rise in deaths compared to the years prior to Hurricane Maria, they still stand firm that the official death tolls remains at 64.

So why? Well, when we spoke to government officials, they say that they are waiting for their own study that they commissioned from George Washington University before they make any changes to the death toll. The problem with that is that study was due to have some findings out in May. That never happened. And so now, they're still waiting to get some results from the study that they commissioned out of G.W. So what's next?

Well, they say that because we are in hurricane season, they want to get to the bottom of the number, and that is important because if you don't understand who died, when, where, and how, there's no way to really prevent any deaths in the future. And the timing of this is important because we are now in hurricane season and historically the big storms usually come to Puerto Rico sometime in September. In the meantime, the government says it does not plan to change the death toll until their report is complete. Leyla Santiago, CNN, Mexico City.

HOWELL: Leyla, thank you for the reporting. Still ahead, the population of wild lions in Africa, it is dwindling. But here's the question. Can a panda help to save them?

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HOWELL: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 37 people have been killed by a resurgence of the Ebola virus. The latest death confirmed on Thursday. The health ministry says 44 cases have been reported in the province in the eastern part of that country, 55 more suspected cases are under investigation.

[02:45:04] ALLEN: Healthcare workers are in the area administering an experimental vaccine. More than 3000 doses are available in the country. More have been requested.

In Indonesia, aftershocks are occurring and thousands of people are on edge. As you can imagine, afraid to go indoors after another powerful tremor jolted this already ravaged island of Lombok.

HOWELL: It is the third earthquake to strike the area in less than two weeks. Our Amara Walker has this report for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMARA WALKER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Rush panic, more trauma, an official rushes to comfort a mother and her children who appeared terrified. Rushing out onto the streets just after a powerful aftershock causes more hysteria for survivors on Indonesia's island of Lombok.

It comes just days after another powerful quake left widespread destruction. Killed hundreds of people and injured more than a thousand. Now, dozens more are hurt. The neighboring island of Bali also felt the jolts. Video from inside the airport there shows people running down escalators, rushing to get out of the building, just after the quake hit.

Anxious residents fled their homes already weakened by earthquakes and aftershocks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were watching TV when the earthquake happened and we ran out. Because there has been so many earthquakes, there are cracks in my room that's why we're afraid. So, as a precaution, we need to run out during the quake

WALKER: Back on Lombok, rescuers are still searching for survivors of Sunday's powerful quake. Pulling some that are still alive from the rubble, but they are finding many more dead buried under the destruction. For the more than 165,000 left homeless, a humanitarian crisis looms many are in desperate need of clean water, food, medicine, and shelter.

Aid deliveries are arriving slowly but faced obstacles at each term,

CHRISTOPHER RASSI, INTERIM HEAD, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS: In the days after a major earthquake that's our biggest challenge is getting to the areas which can't be reached. Clearing the roads, making sure that we can provide food, health services, tarps, shelter, and (INAUDIBLE) social support, as well.

And that is -- it's becoming more difficult when we have these aftershocks.

WALKER: Hospitals were to treat the hundreds injured, but some patients choose open-air tents over air-conditioned wards. Fearful, another building could collapse as powerful aftershocks keep many in a constant state of anxiety.

NUN HIDAYA, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): We can still feel the aftershocks at night. Just last night even that's why we need to stay alert.

SUGITA, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): The earthquake that just happened earlier today was pretty strong. The things that had survived the previous quake are now destroyed.

WALKER: Living in fear of continuing tremors, many with no home to return to. The people of Lombok must also say goodbye to loved ones holding funerals amid the destruction. Amara Walker, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Kind of feel for the people there, and it could be ongoing, of course, with more tremors.

We want to show you Florida, now where at least, nine dead bottlenose dolphins have been discovered along the Florida coast in the past few days. And three were recovered near Venice and Siesta Key on Thursday. That's on the west coast.

HOWELL: Official's say, red tide is likely a factor in the deaths. This toxic algae bloom has been killing various sea life and causing respiratory issues for humans.

The number of wild lions in Africa has dwindled in recent years.

ALLEN: Well, today is World Lion Day. So, we're bringing attention to it. And one nonprofit is teaming up with the popular children's character to help save the lions.

Joining me to talk about World Lion Day is Peter Knights, the co- founder, and CEO of WildAid, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the illegal wildlife trade. Peter, thanks for joining us. Let's get right to this statistic on your web site which illustrates the importance of World Lion Day and it's this.

Over the last 50 years, the number of wild lions across Africa has fallen from 200,000 to an estimated 20,000. Why is it happening?

PETER KNIGHTS, CO-FOUNDER, WILDAID: Well, in short, lions are running out of space. So, as human populations expand and our agriculture expands and cattle ranching, and things like that so the space for lions becomes smaller and smaller. And they come into conflict with human beings and sadly they usually lose that conflict.

ALLEN: So, would you say lose that conflict, so it can be accidents for lions? Or the people killing them because they're threatened by them.

KNIGHTS: Well, what happens -- people are sometimes killing them in revenge, killings if they take cattle or goats. You know, the cattle or goats sometimes will wander into the parks. Or -- you know, the prey of the Lions is displaced and sometimes people will take the law into their own hands, and kill lions. And we're trying to sort of help mitigate that and help reduce that impact.

But essentially, that the space for Lions the habitat has gone down quite a lot. And you know, we saw in Asia with the tigers, the Tigers went down from 100,000 to less than 2,000 or 3,000 now. As that was just became no space where people would tolerate them any longer.

So, there is still time in Africa to maintain lion populations, but they're seriously under threat and the populations in Africa -- you know, it's going up from 1.5 billion to 4 billion by the end of the century. So, we do need to live with lions -- you know, in close proximity.

(CROSSTALK)

[02:50:39] ALLEN: So -- right. So how do you fix that though?

KNIGHTS: Well, you do a number of things. You know, we've been working with a group that puts these flashing lights around the Bahamas where they keep the cattle at night, and that seems to stop the lions attacking.

It's also education because in many cases, it's actually leopards or hyenas that are targeting. But they -- you don't see them so much. So, people think it's a lion they got and take into their own hands.

There's also some places where they giving compensation schemes to compensate farmers if they've lost lions -- you know. Lost story lost cattle and things to Lions. So, there's a number of ways of engaging local communities so it becomes much more tolerant of lions.

ALLEN: What about hunters, can you still get a permit to kill a lion?

KNIGHTS: Yes you can. And in theory, it's supposed to be only for old lions that are no longer breeding. And that sort of rejects from the pride. Unfortunately, in practice as we saw with Cecil the lion, what the hunters really want, of course, is the prime genetic stock, a big strong male.

And so, you know, it can be problematic if they take out the active males. And sometimes they'll kill an active male and that will lead to the new male coming in and killing all the cubs of the previous male. So, a hunting is are very much a mixed bag, it does generate money for conservation in some cases. But it can also impact the lion populations.

ALLEN: We understand that. Well, your nonprofit has used some really strong videos to try to bring -- you know, public awareness to issues you've used the athlete, Yao Ming, you've used Prince William for your hard-hitting campaigns. But now you've hired a new spokesman, it's quite different. So let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PO, KUNG FU PANDA: As the Kung Fu Panda, all I need to defend myself is one awesome skidoosh. But not everyone has my skills. Lions are running out of space to live, and they're often killed when they get too close to people's homes and livestock. So, please, report poaching and smuggling.

Master the Panda Kung Fu move of saying, "No way!" Because poaching steals from us all. It's up to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Quite different. Who are you going for here with Kung Fu Panda?

KNIGHTS: Yes, that cost us a lot of bamboo shoots to get him on board. But now, we're trying to obviously reached children. Because we also find that it in our campaigns in Asia to reduce consumption of endangered species, it's very often the children that influence the grandparents and the parents, you know.

And so, we want to get kids talking about this, we want to get kids understanding that -- you know, we need to try and accommodate lions within our development plans. And you know, that they're important to save for the future.

I mean, I think there's no -- there's no greater icon for Africa, I don't think than the lion. And it would be absolute tragedy if we lost them.

ALLEN: Absolutely. We appreciate your work. Thank you for your time, Peter Knights of WildAid, thank you.

KNIGHT: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead, NASA counting the days a mission to the sun. We'll take us closer to the surface than ever before.

ALLEN: Take us? Well, I'm not going.

HOWELL: I don't want to go either. A Live look outside CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Where we'll bring you the show this day. Stay with us we'll be right back.

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[02:55:20] HOWELL: NASA is getting closer to the Sun than anyone or anything has ever gone before.

ALLEN: Yes, it's not a plot line from the latest science fiction movie but this is the real deal, they're getting close. CNN's Lynda Kinkade has more on this incredible milestone, and what it means.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: NASA's next mission is aiming high. As early as this weekend, it plans to launch the Parker Solar Probe which will fly closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it. The journey by a robotic probe about the size of a small car is literally, one of the hottest in science.

GERONIMO VILLANUEVA, PLANETARY SCIENTIST, NASA: We're going to be very, very close. We can have you actually touching the particles of the Sun.

It's a seven-year mission with a price tag of a $1.5 billion. That will bring NASA about 6 million kilometers from the sun's surface. The craft is designed to withstand searing temperatures which could reach more than 1,300 degrees Celsius.

Not only we had to go flying very fast entering the Sun atmosphere, but we also have to go reaching with millions of the good temperature. So, we have this a special -- a heat chill, it's going to be around five inches thick. And that thing is made of special materials.

KINKADE: The probe will eventually swoop into the solar corona, the outermost part of the sun's atmosphere known for its magnetic charges and solar winds. They're energized particles a whipped into space which interfere with certain technology systems back on earth.

VILLANUEVA: The Sun also emits a lot of particles, highly energetic particles that they affect our communication systems. So when we get a massive storm happen in the Sun, they may kill -- you know, satellite or a power grid here in our own planet. It's the first time NASA has named a mission after a living person.

Astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, who pioneered the study of solar winds. Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Well --

ALLEN: Can we just say hats off to scientists?

HOWELL: Absolutely, absolutely. But -- you know, it's not a man edition, but if it were, I don't think sunscreen would help you on that one,

Sorry. Thank you for being with me, (INAUDIBLE) on the NEWSROOM.

ALLEN: We'll be right back, and getting it serious with our top story after this.

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