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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. Wildfires Kill At Least 28, Scorch Nearly Five Million Acres; Two Officers Shot In Compton, California; No Distancing And Few Masks At Trump Rally; Coronavirus Vaccine Trials; Yellow Vests Return; Afghan Government And Taliban To Discuss Ceasefire; Iranian Champion Wrestler, Navid Afkari Executed; Naomi Osaka Wins 2020 U.S. Open. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 13, 2020 - 02:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Narrow escape. Terrified residents flee rapidly moving fires in the western United States with little else but their lives.

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NEWTON (voice-over): Back on: the U.K. says it's now safe to resume a coronavirus vaccine trial that was paused over safety concerns.

And making her mark: Naomi Osaka wins her third grand slam title while also making a statement about racial injustice.

Live from CNN Center world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Paula Newton. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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NEWTON: And we begin with the historic firestorm engulfing large parts of the western United States. Now imagine being in this car, driving with the flames literally out the window. This is one of nearly 100 wildfires burning right across the West right now.

They've scorched a staggering 4.7 million acres. That's about 2 million hectares. A number of people are still missing. Fires are burning near the outskirts of major cities like Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles.

Thick, toxic smoke is blanketing the entire region. The smoke is making it hard for people to breathe and potentially making them more vulnerable now to COVID-19. We are on the scene in two of the hardest hit states. Our Camila Bernal is following developments in Oregon. We begin now with Paul Vercammen near Los Angeles. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With this Bobcat fire, so many of the fires out West, just not too far from a suburban neighborhood, fire will be burning in the canyons. And this is a threat. Listen to this crackling.

So what firefighters are keeping their eyes on is whether or not these flames start to send up sparks and embers that could be landing on these neighborhoods or if the wind shifts and it pushes the fires back onto the neighborhoods.

In Los Angeles County alone, along a huge swath of the foothills, you have evacuation warnings for the residents just because of this fire, because it's so absolutely stubborn and difficult for them to get out.

In fact, the chief of the forest service here telling me that, usually on a fire like this, he would have up to 1,500 firefighters battling the fire, which has burned around 30,000 acres. But he just doesn't have the personnel. So they only have 500 people fighting this fire right now -- reporting from Los Angeles County, I'm Paul Vercammen.

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CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The flames here are still out of control and at the moment we're at 0 percent containment. On top of that, you add the smoke. The very thick, heavy smoke that makes it hard to breathe and hard to see.

But it makes it hard for the firefighters as well because, in some instances, they're not able to see the fire line. They're also not able to fight these fires in the air because of the conditions right now.

Governor Brown telling us that this is really the worst air quality in the world. And she does say that there is still a number of people who are reported to be missing. So that is the big concern at the moment.

For the people who live in this area, they're, of course, so worried about their homes. We spoke to one woman who lives up the road, Ms. Brown, and she says she has a camera up in her home and she has been looking at her camera day and night.

But she says she can't sleep. She is thankful because she is one of the only ones who knows that her house is still OK. But she says her friends and neighbors already know that, when they come back, there will be nothing left.

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CAROLEE BROWN, MARION COUNTY RESIDENT: It's unreal. You don't really -- you can't really fathom what is going on, you know. You think this isn't really happening. But guess we better be prepared. You take what you think and just get out. BERNAL: And firefighters say the smoke and the air conditions will

remain the same for the next couple of days. They say we may get some pockets of clean air but, for the most part, this smoke is going to stay here in the state.

They also say the fires are so massive and so large that they will not be put out completely until they begin to see some rain in the fall. So this firefight here is just beginning -- reporting in Marion County, Camila Bernal, CNN.

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NEWTON: Sean Drinkwine is the mayor of Estacada, Oregon, he joins me on the phone from nearby Troutdale, Oregon.

I can only imagine what not the last few days but the last few hours. You might be able to break some news for us here on the air. I've been following the updates.

What has changed, if anything with the fire now really threatening your town?

MAYOR SEAN DRINKWINE, ESTACADA, OR: Well, I tell you, the fire is holding from what I understand. They have eased off a little bit. They're -- the fire hasn't progressed. But still in danger. The evacs have all stayed in place. The smoke has been really horrible. So there haven't been a lot of updates besides that at this point.

NEWTON: How difficult is this to really be at the edge of your seat praying every hour that your whole town will survive?

DRINKWINE: Well, I tell you, it's been something I never would have expected in my lifetime to ever have to face when our city is on the verge of burning down. I mean, from the time this all started to now, I've been in encampments all over, trying to get evacuees to places where they're safe.

And with our state under so many fire warnings, that's really difficult to do. In the encampment that I'm at right now, I have several cities represented here. There is Sandy, Gladstone, Estacada, Port Beaverton and they're all in here because of either evac 2 or evac 3 warnings.

NEWTON: Yes and, to be clear, Estacada was an evac 3, right?

DRINKWINE: Yes.

NEWTON: They said to you and your residents, get out now while you still can.

DRINKWINE: It was a get out now call that we received. And we did just that. We got everybody out safely and our town is evacuated. You can't get back in unless you have ID and there is no way -- at this point, I don't think they're even letting people back in to get any last remaining stuff. So we are shut down completely.

NEWTON: What's it like, from the residents that you represent, the ones you're trying to support?

What's the hardest part about this now?

DRINKWINE: Well, you know, we live in a very hardworking area. Most of these are independent contractors with small businesses that are on the verge of losing everything they have.

So it is very emotional. It's been very traumatic. There has been a lot of comforting, a lot of crying going on. And, you know, my job is to stay in the midst of that and try to, you know, comfort people and make them feel better about this whole situation.

I'm getting updates hourly. I've been in the fray. I went back into Estacada myself several times to check on things. We've lost some structures on our outer limits of the Estacada area, more in the urban growth area.

So I'm going to tour that tomorrow and kind of get an idea where we're at this point. But we've had a lot of great people come out with donations. It's been overwhelming.

NEWTON: Estacada is strong for sure. I know many people have been thankful.

What do you need in the next hours and days?

There has been discussions that firefighters are really at the end of their tether, that they need reinforcements.

DRINKWINE: They do need reinforcements. They have worked tirelessly to fight this fire. I've talked with all of them. I've been in the midst of them and I have only the highest admiration for everything they've tried to do to try to save our city.

And they're still keeping that fire at bay. And it takes a lot to even think for a moment what they're going through.

NEWTON: Well, Mayor, I'm telling you, we are all riveted. We are watching anxiously. We really hope that the weather continues to be favorable here and maybe in the days to come, maybe even some precipitation. I hope Estacada does stay strong and we'll continue to follow the updates. Appreciate it.

DRINKWINE: Appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

NEWTON: And you heard the mayor there. He is happy that everyone got out safely but we did want to take a moment to try and remember some of the victims of the wildfires.

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NEWTON: One of them was 13-year-old Wyatt Tofte. His body was found in a family car with his dog on his lap after the fires burned down his home. The fires also killed his grandmother. The family tells CNN they've been trying to piece together what happened.

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SUSAN VASLEV, TOFTE'S GREAT-AUNT: She told Wyatt and the dog to run and we don't know exactly what happened. But Wyatt ended up going back to the car and tried to drive his grandmother out.

And so he attempted to drive that car and -- the roads were so hot that it burned up the tires. And so he wasn't able to drive it to safety, did not make it out of the fire.

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NEWTON: Just heartbreaking. Several members of Wyatt's family, including his mother, are badly hurt but survived. About half a million people in Oregon are under some kind of evacuation alert at this hour.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

NEWTON: And we want to get you the latest on breaking news out of Southern California right now. Police are searching for the gunman who brazenly shot two Los Angeles County sheriff's department officers. It happened in the city of Compton about 16 miles south of L.A. Saturday night outside a transit station. Take a listen.

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CAPTAIN KENT WEGENER, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: The suspect approached them from behind as the deputies were facing southbound in their patrol vehicle.

The suspect came from the north. He walked along the passenger side of the car. He acted as if he was going to walk past the car and made a left turn directly toward the car, raised a pistol and fired several rounds inside of the vehicle, striking both of the sheriff's deputies.

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WEGENER: The suspect then fled on foot northbound from the shooting scene and out of view.

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NEWTON: You heard the captain there describing what happened. But now I want to show you video of that shooting. It appears to be from a surveillance camera nearby. Take a look.

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NEWTON (voice-over): You can clearly see the man approach the car and fire. Both officers were hit several times. They've had surgery and they're both in critical condition, now fighting for their lives.

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NEWTON: And we'll bring you more on that story as soon as we have it. CNN NEWSROOM continues in just a moment. Stay with us.

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NEWTON: U.S. President Donald Trump's latest campaign rally is guaranteed to alarm medical experts. Now despite the threat from coronavirus, you can see there huge crowds packed together in Nevada Saturday night. Very few masks in sight.

Now the flouting of COVID guidelines comes as the president is being criticized for downplaying the pandemic. Our Boris Sanchez was there.

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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Largely a return to form for President Trump in Nevada on Saturday night.

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SANCHEZ: The president speaking to a huge crowd of supporters at a rally in a way that we haven't seen since March and the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The crowd rushing to fill the venue, at one point, grabbing chairs that had been separated, part of social distancing guidelines, and rearranging them as they wished. A massive, sizable crowd. The president noticing and apparently getting angry at the media for what he says is an underreporting of the number of supporters that were here.

Keep in mind the venue had to change for this event. It was originally going to be held at the Reno Tahoe airport but that was scrapped because there is a mandate in the state of Nevada banning gatherings groups of people 50 people or more.

The president says the campaign got around that by effectively calling this a political protest, a peaceful protest. The president railing against Democrats, repeatedly going after Joe Biden, insulting his intelligence, his cognitive abilities as well.

The president also trying to make the case that he is the person to lead the country through economic rebound because of the crushing shutdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president saying the country is turning the corner, despite what we've heard from a number of health experts within his own administration. President Trump, again returning to form, speaking candidly to his supporters and they ate it up -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in Minden, Nevada.

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NEWTON: That was Nevada. Now back in Washington, a federal official tells CNN a Trump appointee pushed to change reports by the Centers for Disease Control tracking the coronavirus response.

Now the official says the CDC believed the appointee, a communications worker with the Department of Health and Human Services, did not want the reports to contradict the president.

Mr. Trump admits downplaying the pandemic. An HHS spokesperson says the department wants to make sure that science-based data and not, quote, "ulterior deep state motives" drives coronavirus policy.

Now trials for Oxford coronavirus vaccine have picked up again but only in the U.K. The clinical trials were put on hold a few days ago because of an unexplained illness that really was observed in a volunteer. I want to bring in CNN's Scott McLean who is standing by in London.

The issue here is why only in the U.K. don't get me wrong. It is good news.

But they learn more about this adverse reaction in one of the volunteers?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a good question, Paula. So first off, this vaccine trial being done by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the drug company, is absolutely massive. It is truly global.

They have put the vaccine or the placebo in 18,000 people already. The goal is to put it in 50,000 arms before it's all said and done. There are volunteers from the U.S., U.K. and really many other countries around the world.

So the volunteer in question was from the U.K. And so the independent safety review committee, the one that looks at these adverse reactions and determines what they're caused by, they determined that the trial is safe to go ahead.

So has the U.K.'s health regulator but now the company has to go and get the permission of every other health regulator in every other country that they're operating this vaccine trial in. So it could take a while.

As for what we know about the volunteer, as I said, they were based here in the U.K. The director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health had told a Senate committee this week that the condition was "a spinal cord problem," quote-unquote.

The company the same day denied it was a condition called transverse myelitis, a rare inflammatory spinal cord condition, saying there was no final diagnosis until more tests were done.

Neither Oxford University nor the company will share any more details, citing privacy laws. But generally, when a trial has to be put on hold, the first thing they have to do is figure out, did the person get the actual vaccine or did they get the placebo?

If it's the vaccine, then they have to figure out was it caused by the vaccine or was it caused by something totally coincidental?

And experts say when you put the vaccine in so many people, there are bound to be people who get sick. As thousands of people, a couple of people, who maybe didn't get the vaccine may have also gotten sick as well. So they just have to figure out why it was.

The company had also said, Paula, that in July, the trial was also put on pause, though not made publicly, because of someone who had an undiagnosed case of multiple sclerosis. Obviously, health regulators in that case had figured out that it was completely unrelated to the vaccine.

NEWTON: Yes, and we certainly hope and the company has said that they're not exactly sure how this will affect the timeline. But we'll wait to see from more news as we're all waiting on it. Scott McLean, thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.

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NEWTON: Meanwhile, U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech are working on their own coronavirus vaccine. They're now planning to expand their phase 3 trials. The plan is to enroll 44,000 volunteers, some as young as 16, as well as people with HIV and that is significant.

The company say they have already submitted their proposal to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Parts of the U.S. are still very far behind in testing and seeing the number of COVID cases rising. A community-based nonprofit group founded by actor Sean Penn is stepping up to get more people tested right here in hardhit Georgia. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, three, four.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you're looking at is testing, something any public health expert in the world will tell you is the key to controlling a pandemic like COVID-19.

And here in Fulton County, Georgia, where I live, that need, which has been slow to be met, has finally found some help from the nonprofit organization Core and this familiar face, Sean Penn.

SEAN PENN, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: This partnership sets an example not only for the state of Georgia but for the rest of the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Y'all ready for this?

GUPTA: When was the moment you realized that this county or at least Atlanta was in over its head on this?

ROBB PITTS, FULTON COUNTY BOARD CHAIRMAN: When Georgia got in the spotlight, that's when it started to hit home. GUPTA (voice-over): For Fulton County board chairman Robb Pitts, that

spotlight came when Georgia became one of the first states to reopen on April 24th. Today there is no statewide mask mandate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm confident that Georgians don't need a mandate to do the right thing.

GUPTA (voice-over): And average daily cases in Georgia are more than doubled since that last week in April.

PITTS: When we started to following the advice of the scientists and the medical professionals, we focused on testing.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's part of the reason Chairman Pitts funded a $3 million contract with Core to help fill the gaps.

GUPTA: I would think that's going to be Georgia Department of Health.

JONATHAN GOLDEN, CORE GEORGIA: Right.

GUPTA: Instead it's this nonprofit from the other side of the country doing this work.

GOLDEN: The Department of Public Health, the counties can have these ideas and know the implementation of the action. They don't necessarily have the personnel to carry it out. We're the feet on the ground. We can bring the personnel, add surge capacity.

GUPTA (voice-over): The numbers seem to show that, so far, the strategy is working. If you look at Fulton County's positivity rate over the past two weeks, it's around 6 percent; Georgia is around 10 percent. But still, as the most populous county with the most cases, it is like Fulton County is a blue Petri dish in the middle of a red state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was not experiencing any symptoms. I just came to get tested because one of my friends tested positive.

GUPTA (voice-over): And this is important: who to test. Finding asymptomatic cases, that's been a priority for Core since they first came here in May.

PENN: Every essential worker, symptomatic or asymptomatic, is invited, encouraged to come here and we will test you.

GUPTA (voice-over): Remember, according to the CDC, 40 percent of people who carry the virus have no symptoms. And yet they are responsible for around 50 percent of the spread.

And now as the number of tests and cases are moving in the right direction, Fulton County board of health director Dr. Lynn Paxton says it's time to think about the next steps.

DR. LYNN PAXTON, FULTON COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH DIRECTOR: Contact tracing becomes even more crucial as the numbers start to fall. Think about it almost as if you're trying to stamp out embers from a fire. You put the fire out. But if you have little embers, they can catch fire again.

GUPTA (voice-over): And Core is helping to do that as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do this one first.

GUPTA (voice-over): That means going door to door to try and reach those who have tested positive but couldn't be contacted any other way. And that's because every test, every contact informed, every step we can possibly take is what's going to help us win this battle -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.

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NEWTON: Historic fires are burning across the western United States. Why one governor says the climate change debate is over.

Plus, we'll talk about that with a climate scientist. That's straight ahead.

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NEWTON: And I want to welcome back our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Paula Newton and you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Firefighters in the western United States are really hoping for that break in the weather finally as they battle wildfires that have scorched a record 4.7 million acres. Fires are burning in a number of states and they have now killed at least 28 people.

Tens of thousands, meantime, have been ordered to evacuate. In California, three of the five largest fires ever are burning at this hour. California's governor says the severity of the wildfires is unlike anything the state has ever seen. Gavin Newsom has a message for anyone who does not believe the science behind climate change.

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GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes. It's not an intellectual debate. It's not even debatable any longer what we are experiencing, the extreme droughts, the extreme atmospheric rivers, the extreme heat.

You've seen the images now strewn across the rest of the globe, these orange glows, the quarter-inch thick snow that is these ashes that are falling hundreds of miles away from these fires, fires that we are experiencing north California, 800 miles down to southern part near the border of Mexico.

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NEWTON: We now want to bring in Noah Diffenbaugh, a Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University.

You and your colleagues just published a study in August, OK, saying that the number of days with high fire risk in California have doubled, according to your research since the early 1980s and why, right?

You guys point out it's higher temperatures, it's lower precipitation.

Is there anything, given your research, that surprises you about the ferocity with which these fires are burning now?

NOAH DIFFENBAUGH, PROFESSOR OF EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCE, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, what our research shows and what a number of other scientists' research shows is that global warming has already created an environment in which we are more likely to have conditions that fall outside of our historical experience.

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DIFFENBAUGH: That's exactly what we're experiencing here on the West Coast right now.

So these are unprecedented conditions. We have by far the largest wildfire in California's recorded history burning and right behind that the third and fourth largest wildfires. We've got four of the top 10, five of the top 15.

This is really an unusual year and we're just heading into the part of the year where the strong offshore winds start to blow. We had an event in Washington and Oregon and California this week with those strong offshore winds.

And that led to the second episode of very large wildfires and just this pervasive smoke and poor air quality all along the West Coast.

NEWTON: I think for people following the scientific debate right now, you heard the governor. He was quite emphatic, saying there should no longer be a debate.

I mean, what do you say to people to say look, the science is now definitive?

DIFFENBAUGH: I mean, these are -- these are observations. As I say to my students in class, if you believe in thermometers, then you believe in global warming. These are just measurements.

Our paper that just came out, that study that just came out last month that you mentioned, we found, looking back at historical observations of temperature and precipitation and winds, these measurable weather conditions, we found that the frequency of extreme wildfire weather days has more than doubled in the last four decades. So that's for the autumn season, the number of days out of an average

autumn season that California, areas of California, experience extreme wildfire weather conditions. We're already in a world where those are twice as likely.

What that means is, when lightning strikes happen, when the human ignitions from various -- the electrical grid or a pyrotechnic device put on dry grass at a party, when those conditions happen, it's happening in an environment where we're much more likely to get these very large, very fast-spreading fires.

And that's stretching our response system past the point that it's built for, right?

So having these multiple conditions on the landscape simultaneously means that the very large, very sophisticated, very well-trained firefighting force that we have here in California and in the West, it's insufficient to contain that many simultaneous wildfires when the vegetation is so dry as it is now.

NEWTON: Right. And, of course, many of the places where we live right now may not be viable options any longer, given the science. I was interested that your study also says meeting the U.N. Paris climate commitments could actually begin to reverse this trend.

I'm not sure I read that correctly in the sense that is the message here that there is still time?

We keep looking at the pictures of these fires and thinking, that's it. We've missed the boat.

DIFFENBAUGH: So there are a couple of key messages from this paper. One is that we're already living in a climate that is more extreme, that is already impacting us, that is producing conditions that fall outside of our historical experience. It's happening now.

Secondly, the more global warming we have in the future, the more these conditions are going to intensify.

Third, achieving those Paris -- U.N.-Paris goals of curbing global warming, essentially holding the level of global warming to twice what we've already had, that will substantially reduce what we face in the future.

But it will still be more intense than what we're experiencing now. Another degree of global warming is going to intensify these conditions further. What that means is, to be resilient, we're going have to catch up to the climate change that's already happened and leap ahead to get ahead of what's coming in future decades.

NEWTON: Yes. And I know the younger generation, always saying to us, look, the pandemic is here and now a crisis and yet climate is as well. And I know many people have been listening. And unfortunately, watching these terrible fires and listening with interest. We'll continue to follow your research. Thank you so much.

DIFFENBAUGH: Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: So to historic Afghan peace talks that are now beginning in Doha and a ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban is apparently on the table for Sunday.

Plus U.S. President Donald Trump and others have tried to change Iran's mind but a champion wrestler has been reportedly executed.

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NEWTON: Some don't believe Tehran's story about why he was sentenced. What they're saying ahead.

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NEWTON: French police have taken more than 250 people in for questioning as Yellow Vest protests return. Vehicles were set on fire and property damaged in the 17th District of Paris.

This is the first Yellow Vest protest since France lifted strict coronavirus lockdown measures in May. Now the loosely organized movement sprang up in November 2018 in reaction to plans to raise fuel prices.

Meantime in Greece, police clashed with migrants protesting a new camp going up on the island of Lesbos. Tear gas was deployed to try and disperse the protesters for the fourth straight day. Migrants have been protesting along the main road where the new camp is expected to be built.

A large fire earlier this week destroyed one of the largest migrant camps in Europe.

The Afghan government and the Taliban will reportedly discuss a ceasefire during peace talks Sunday. Now the U.S. secretary of state attended the opening ceremony for those talks on Saturday in Doha. CNN's Sam Kiley explains what to expect.

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SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In Doha, Qatar, a significant breakthrough, of course, with a meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban under the auspices of the Qataris but very much driven by the United States.

Mike Pompeo there to help boost this first stage of the process, which, from the Trump administration's perspective, is essential because they want to try to see conditions that would allow an effective drawdown of the U.S. troops from 8,600 to about 4,500 by the November elections. [02:45:00]

KILEY: Now that may or may not be possible from an American political perspective. It's very unlikely most Afghan commentators would say, from the Afghan perspective, because these talks are expected to go on for some time.

But they do begin at least in a positive atmosphere, with the leader of the Afghan delegation, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, calling for an immediate ceasefire. That's on the back of several other ceasefires that have occurred this year.

They have dialed down the levels certainly of civilian deaths very significantly. And also on the Taliban side, interestingly, a commitment to establish some kind of Islamic State inside Afghanistan but not using the term "emirate." And that was the term, of course, that they used when they declared Afghanistan as an emirate under the Taliban when they took over more than 2 decades ago now.

But moving forward, this is also going to be problematic for the Afghan government because the fewer American troops there, the weaker they may be perceived in the future by the Taliban.

Nonetheless, Afghan spokesmen are saying they really see that as something of an advantage because it projects a sincere desire for long-term peace in their country -- Sam Kiley, CNN, in Abu Dhabi.

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NEWTON: Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari has been executed, despite an international campaign that tried to spare his life. Now he had been sentenced to death in relation to a murder that happened during a 2018 protest.

Iran's state-run news agency reports that he was executed after the victim's family refused to forgive him. Now the executive director of World Players Association says he doesn't believe that's why Afkari, pardon me, was executed.

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BRENDAN SCHWAB, WORLD PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: The concept for us, that an athlete who is involved in peaceful protests, who is convicted of crimes because he went through coerced confessions, who has suffered torture and then subjected to execution is just horrifying.

This just goes to show that we have so much work to do. We were hopeful that sport would be more powerful than politics in this. But it seems that that's not been the case.

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NEWTON: CNN journalist Ramin Mostaghim joins us from Tehran.

Given what was discussed there, it seems that almost the international campaign might have had the opposite effect. I know his family had said that they were outraged that they weren't even allowed to see him before he was executed.

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes indeed, Paula. Unfortunately, the tweets of Mr. Trump proved to be counterproductive. And unfortunately, the majority of the social network for yesterday morning just had a shock because, I mean, the execution caught them by surprise and a sort of ambushing from their angle to hashtags and tweets.

And the fans of Farid (sic) all over the world, including your own, couldn't believe it because there was a sort of euphemisms and optimisms the day before. And the charity organization, philanthropies, the raising -- crowd funding and raising money just to pay restitution or compensation, if you like, to the family of the killed one, I mean, allegedly killed one.

And suddenly, we woke up to the very sorrowful news. And on the other hand, the minority group of social networks, tweets, Facebook and everybody else, are happy and they say, quote-unquote, "he was a killer" and he deserved the execution and he deserved to the sent to the gallows.

And now we can feel the simmering frustration of the middle class in Iran in the backdrop of soaring prices. And it's not difficult to anticipate that this simmering or boiling frustration of the middle class after the execution of Navid to be translated to near or long- term into the -- sort of another protest, a street protest in Tehran, somewhere else in the country because it was a really shock news for them for the middle class, for other young groups, athletic groups and associations across the world.

And it will not be a surprise if it is translated into some sort of political uphills in future.

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MOSTAGHIM: I know there are street protests as, you know, bear in mind that Farid (sic) was active protester, whether we like it or not or whether he did anything wrong.

NEWTON: Right. And his family disputes that he did anything wrong and says that the evidence against him, some of it brought by his own brothers, was obtained through torture.

I really want to thank you for the update there, appreciate it.

CNN NEWSROOM continues here after a break.

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NEWTON: Naomi Osaka won the 2020 U.S. Open title on Saturday after defeating Victoria Azarenka in three sets. It is her second U.S. Open title in her young career. Look at that smile. She now has three major championships, at the

young age of 22. But she also made a statement off the court. She wore different face masks throughout the tournament with names of victims of alleged racial violence, often at the hands of police. "CNN SPORT's" Carolyn Manno has more from New York.

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CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's been 25 years here at the U.S. Open since a woman has dropped the first set in the women's singles final and come back to win it all.

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MANNO: Naomi Osaka did just that. But this tournament has been anything but ordinary. At the beginning of this year's U.S. Open, she made a bold proclamation to the world. She had seven names on seven masks. Each name was a victim whose death sparked outcries for social justice and racial equality. Seven the number of matches it would take for her to reach the final. And she did, an enormous amount of pressure and an important message for Osaka, who is Haitian and Japanese.

As for the match itself, it looked like Victoria Azarenka was going to win handily, 6-1 in the first set and up two games in the second before she opened the door just a little bit, getting tight and letting Osaka walk through, ultimately for the victory.

After the match, Naomi Osaka was asked what message she was trying to send.

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NAOMI OSAKA, TWO-TIME U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: Well, what was the message that you got was more of the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.

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MANNO: We should note that the two headlines that have dominated the news cycle globally, coronavirus and social justice, have left an indelible mark on this year's grand slam. No crowds here and as such no fanfare for Naomi Osaka. You may recall two years ago when she won, she was in tears after defeating one of her idols, Serena Williams.

This time around, Osaka's still soft-spoken but sending a very clear message and the world is listening -- Carolyn Manno in Queens.

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NEWTON: With or without fans, it was a great match.

I am Paula Newton. More CNN NEWSROOM coming up with Natalie Allen. Stay with us, we'll be back after a quick break.