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NYPD Video Shows Valiant Rescue Effort in Flooded Basement; More than 600,000 Without Power in Louisiana Amid Scorching Heat; GOP Congressman Claims Taliban Holding Hostages Americans and Allies in Kabul Airport; New Government Taking Shape as Taliban Cement Control; Interview with Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN) about Ivermectin Being Used to Treat COVID-19; Afghan Chaos and COVID Surge Hammer President Biden's Approval Rating; Climate Change and Great Climate Migration; China Peddles Baseless U.S. Origin Conspiracy Theory. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 05, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG, JEFFERSON PARISH PRESIDENT: We've lost more people post-storm than we did during the storm. And we're day-by-day trying to put our community back together.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the crisis of our generation. We have to act now to try to protect against the future risks that we're going to face.
AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: We're two weeks away from the date the Biden administration is set to start rolling out COVID booster shots for adults.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We were hoping that we would get both the candidates, both products, Moderna and Pfizer, rolled out by the week of the 20th. It is conceivable that we will only have one of them out, but the other would likely follow soon thereafter.
WALKER: I'm Amara Walker in Atlanta in for Pamela Brown. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
One full week after Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana and the death toll is still climbing. And the details are horrifying. In Louisiana, more than 600,000 homes and businesses are still without power. And the merciless heat proved fatal for an elderly man in New Orleans. It could take several more weeks to restore power to everyone in the state.
In New York, heroism and heartbreak from Ida's deadly visit there. This is a New York police officer wading into chest deep waters Wednesday to investigate reports of people inside the flooded basement of a home with stuffed animals and toys bobbing in the filthy, murky water. The officers were blocked by locked doors and live electricity. Firefighters then brought in specialized equipment and discovered the bodies of three people, all of whom had drowned.
Let's begin now with Polo Sandoval in New York. And video released today by the NYPD of an extraordinary rescue. Walk us through what we see there.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And important to point out, too, Amara, that this video, what this does, it basically shows the scene where three people died on Wednesday during the height of the storm. We're going to get more into those details in just a second, but that's important context. But it also just gives you an idea of just the sense of urgency that so many first responders throughout the city of New York were working with to try to rescue people as many as they could. Sadly, though, in this case, these were unsuccessful attempts.
What you're seeing here are NYPD officers working desperately to try to get into one of these basement or cellar apartments that we've been talking about the last several days. The city certainly is going to take a closer look at. To try to rescue folks after several reports there were some individuals trapped in there. There were multiple concerns like locked doors, rising waters, live wires, for example, that forced authorities to scale back, to pull back.
And it wasn't until they were able to pump the water out of this space that they were able to send some divers in because there was still some water. And that's when they recovered the bodies of three people, a 2-year-old toddler and his parents. That actually happened not far from where I am right now in this particular neighborhood in Queens. I can tell you that those folks who I've talked are very well aware the fact that there were many of their neighbors that weren't as lucky as they were.
However, what they are dealt with -- what they're dealing with now is just the cleanup process. A lot of folks have spent all weekend here just clearing out their basements and trying to see what will happen next. Many folks working with fixed incomes here so they do not have the resources to replace some of their basic household items. So they're certainly hoping that the federal government will step in and to help.
And today they heard the New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed an additional disaster declaration that is calling on the Biden administration to expedite financial assistance, not just to local governments but to New Yorkers as well. Those that have been hardest hit here.
I want you to hear from one Queens resident who took some time to go to one of the city services that have been set up to provide several resources but she left not satisfied with what she got, and she said she needs more, she needs that financial help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA AMARANTINIS, FLOOD VICTIM: Came by here today because I thought I might be able to get assistance. My hot water heater is shot. You can't get a plumber. My boiler also gone. And all we've been told with everyone that's here today is call 311 and file a complaint, which I did and was closed out. I don't know what to do. We need financial assistance. We need to get back on our feet.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: It's just one of several New York residents that are really feeling frustrated right now. Now the city officials told me that they are certainly doing everything they can. They set up these storm service centers to provide help to connect them with nonprofits for food, possibly temporary housing. But everybody here on the ground, Amara, they acknowledged that certainly that financial boost, that assistance, is what would certainly help people with the recovery process.
WALKER: Yes, no doubt about that. So many people impacted by Ida who need help getting on their feet as that woman just said to you there.
Polo Sandoval, thanks so much. Live for us there in New York.
Let's head now to Kenner, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans. And CNN's Nadia Romero, and one littered neighborhood with down powerlines and poles and, you've been there for quite some time on the ground, Nadia. You know how it is. It's been a week of no electricity, no air- conditioning, spoiled food. It's extremely hot as you were telling us yesterday. What else is going on?
NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, all of those things have compounded now because people are fed up. They're seeing their neighbors or family members, their friends, they're getting their electricity back on. But for some neighborhoods like this one in Kenner, they are expected to get their power back on on Wednesday. But they said, Nadia, look around. Like do you really think it's going to happen? And here's why.
You see this power pole that came down during the storm, it's going to take a lot of work to get that back up. But it's not the only one in this neighborhood.
Amara, I want you to take a look at our mass cam and you can see one, two, three, more poles that are on the ground just littered across this neighborhood. The power poles, the power lines trapping people inside of their homes. So the folks on the left side of your screen, they haven't been able to leave their house since the storm. The people on the right side have. But they have to really drive on the front lawns of their neighbors' houses just to get in and out, and around this neighborhood.
Listen to what one resident said. She just wishes the power company would do at least.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMILY ENCALARDE, KENNER RESIDENT WITHOUT POWER: Even though I realize that it's overwhelming, I think that they could move a little bit quicker as far as allowing these neighbors to be able to move in and out more easily.
ROMERO: So at the least get this stuff out of the street.
ENCALARDE: Yes. Just -- if they could get somebody to come and move the debris and the poles out of the street, where we can travel, that would improve it overnight practically.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ROMERO: An overnight improvement. The residents tell me they're not asking for much. Right? They need water, they need food, they want their electricity back on. And they have to start repairing their homes. Many of them have damaged on their roofs. So it reminds me of that scene that we see a lot after hurricanes. It's happening in this neighborhood. Blue tarps decorate almost every home in this neighborhood because of the damage that was done during the storm. This neighborhood along with the power lines was littered with roof shingles as well -- Amara.
WALKER: Just getting out of their homes is a challenge. Incredible stuff there.
Nadia Romero, thank you so much for your reporting in Louisiana.
Well, there is growing concern for Americans still waiting to get out of Afghanistan. White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the Biden administration thinks, quote, "around 100 are still there," and promises to find ways to get them all out. But the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee claims there are American citizens and Afghan allies who are being held at the airport against their will.
CNN's Susan Malveaux is following all of these from Capitol Hill.
Suzanne, these are extraordinary claims we're hearing from the congressman. What else do we know?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was very strong language, alarmist language, and that really got a lot of attention today. This is Representative Michael McCaul, top Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, essentially ringing the alarm saying that, yes, there are American citizens that are trapped at the Kabul airport that they are trying to get out, they desperately need rescuing.
And the way he described it was in very specific terms. He said it was from information from classified briefings that he was getting and he described it as almost a real time hostage-type situation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): We have six airplanes at Maza-i-Sharif airport, six airplanes with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now. The state has cleared these flights and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: It is because of the specific language here, the nature of this language, and the picture that he is painting, CNN reached out to several government entities and agencies for clarification, amplification or even confirmation. The State Department, a spokesperson saying look, they don't have the information to confirm this specific case.
But here's the statement that they put out today, saying, "We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan. However, we do not have personnel on the ground. We do not have air assets in the country, do not control the air space whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region. Given these constraints, we also do not have a reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights, including who may be organizing them the number of U.S. citizens and other priority groups on board."
CNN has spoken to Ascend, it's one of the many nonprofit groups that are out there trying to extract and get American citizens out of Afghanistan. They say that the Taliban is, in fact, holding some of these American citizens outside of the airport, preventing them from getting on these planes. Again the State Department spokesperson saying that they will hold the Taliban accountable to the commitment that they've made that they will allow Americans to freely leave the country. But it really is an open question. It is all very uncertain on the ground.
WALKER: Uncertain and messy indeed.
Suzanne Malveaux, appreciate the reporting. Thank you so much.
All right, meantime, reminders of the new reality for Afghans. The Taliban are still battling pockets of resistance with heavy fighting reported today in one holdout province. But they're moving ahead with imposing their rule. One example, the Taliban-run Ministry of Education approving new rules for Afghan universities that includes separating male and female students. Yet, still no word on who is actually in charge.
CNN's Nic Robertson is in Islamabad, Pakistan with more -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The Taliban has still yet to announce who's going to be in their government. They said it would be inclusive, include non-Taliban members. Pakistan's head of the intelligence services, the ISI, went to Kabul Saturday, met with the Taliban. Pakistani sources now telling us that the Taliban's supreme leader, the one that they call the Commander of the Faithful, Hibatullah Akhundzada, he is going to remain as the top leader of the Taliban. There's a dispute over who could be Defense minister. There's a
contest between some pretty powerful military commanders within the Taliban on that. But what they have said, what this source said, is that the Taliban will not put anyone in that government who is under U.N. sanctions for connection to terrorism.
But this is really a very slow process. I think everyone had expected it to happen much sooner. The indications are that whomever this non- Taliban person that gets included is likely to be a relatively low- profile politician, may in fact not get a position of real power and influence within the Taliban government. And we also understand don't expect any women to be in that government in significant senior positions.
Now women have been protesting on the streets of Kabul, a third protest Saturday, and elsewhere in the country as well. That small protest by a small group of women in Kabul came to blows when the Taliban tried to break it up. They're trying to get to the presidential palace according to local news station. One of the women got bloodied. And the women at the protest said that the Taliban were using tear gas and tasers on them to break up the protest.
The Taliban also now announcing strict dress codes for women in higher education, black abayas and women to be separated from men. Separate classrooms, and that's a really tiny classes, and to arrive at separate times. So the Taliban really going forward with their strict interpretation of Sharia law.
WALKER: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you for that.
And coming up this hour, dubious claims about treating COVID with a livestock deworming drug blamed for a huge spike in accidental overdoses.
China unleashes an electronic tsunami of disinformation to deflect blame for the pandemic's origins. And public panic over the surging Delta variant hammering President Biden's popularity.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WALKER: The Delta variant has a tight grip on the United States right now. COVID cases are still rising across more than half of the country. Hospitals everywhere are struggling with COVID patients, the vast majority unvaccinated taking up beds. And all of this despite the fact a solution is widely available now, vaccines, three types of them in the U.S., all proven to be safe and effective. But some Americans are defying logic and turning to unproven treatments like Ivermectin. That is used as a drug by veterinarians to deworm large animals.
The red flag should be the picture of the horse and livestock you see right there. A version can also be prescribed to humans, but not for COVID. Yet, look at this. Data shows 459 calls to 55 poison control centers across the U.S. just last month. That is up more than 245 percent from July. You can only shake your head.
Joining me now is Republican Congressman Larry Bucshon. He was a practicing physician before coming to Congress and he is part of the GOP Doctors Caucus urging people to get the vaccine. Here you are in a PSA that was recently released doing just that.
Congressman, appreciate you joining us on this holiday weekend. Look, vaccines effectively protect us from COVID. They have been vetted through clinical trials. The FDA has approved, at least fully approved one of them, if not an Emergency Use Authorization for others. There are also authorized treatments for COVID. So help us understand, why are then some people turning instead to a drug that's not proven in any way to treat coronavirus?
REP. LARRY BUCSHON (R-IN): Well, let me first say that people should not be taking non-FDA approved medications that are off label, so to speak, for anything, including COVID-19. It's very dangerous. There are side effects. And as you pointed out, your opening comments is medication primarily used in the veterinary space, not in humans. So I would guard against using it at all.
I think people get a lot of misinformation mostly from the internet. I have discouraged people from taking advice from the internet. Follow what the scientists are saying and what your physician is saying. But people sometimes follow the wrong recommendations, primarily from misinformation from the internet. It's very frustrating to me.
WALKER: Is it really just the internet, Congressman? I mean, first off, you know, we were mentioning you are a physician by trade, to be specific a cardio thoracic surgeon.
WALKER: A lot of misinformation is coming from politicians, including your fellow Republicans and non-doctors like Senator Ron Johnson who's been promoting Ivermectin to treat COVID, and people listening to him. Also listening to the likes of Tucker Carlson and FOX News hosts. In fact, calls to poison control centers have increased by three times, and that's according to the CDC. What do you say to your colleagues?
BUCSHON: Well, again, I would say misinformation is misinformation no matter who is saying it. And I think, you know, both journalists, politicians and others should not be promoting products that are not approved by the FDA and are discouraged against being used by the CDC. It's dangerous and people shouldn't do it. So I agree with you that any type of misinformation, whether that's coming from politicians, from journalists, from the internet, people shouldn't pay attention to those things. And talk to your doctor. The best way to protect yourself against COVID is to get vaccinated.
WALKER: In the last month, Congressman, three conservative radio hosts who at some point used their platform to deny the virus or discourage the vaccine all together, they all died from the virus. Here are their photos. Do you ever point to these cases to push people to get vaccinated?
BUCSHON: Yes, I do. I point to cases that happened where people get misinformation or for whatever reason decide not to get vaccinated. I would say the vast majority of people like that, it's kind of an anti- government approach that they take to the extreme where people just won't believe the FDA or the CDC. And you know, there's been a lot of political haggling, too. I mean, responsibility lies on a lot of the political people on both sides of the aisle over the last year and a half.
And so I think, you know, people primarily that I talk to, it's because they just don't have trust in the FDA, believe it or not, and specifically the CDC. And that's the problem. It's more of an anti- government, you can't tell me what to do approach. But in this case, it could be deadly and you should listen to the scientists, talk to your doctor and get vaccinated.
WALKER: How much do you think your party, the Republican Party, though, has responsibility for that, for villainizing scientists and promoting distrust in science and facts?
BUCSHON: I think there is some culpability to go all around. I think political people last year, particularly during the presidential campaign, you know, politicized this. And as a physician, I don't politicize it. You should follow the science, follow the recommendations under both political parties. You know, the Trump administration --
WHITFIELD: But both political parties -- you say both political parties politicized this or would you say more so the GOP? I mean --
BUCSHON: Well, I mean, I think you have to look at past statements that have been made by politicians on both sides of the aisle. You know, last year before the election it was Donald Trump was pressuring the FDA to approve an ineffective vaccine. And then, you know, since that time, you know, on the other side of the aisle people are saying, well, the Biden administration has forced the FDA to approve a vaccine that hasn't been proven to work.
And both of those are not true. You know, both of those statements are not true. So I think there's culpability to go around. In my area, primarily a Republican area, I think, you know, libertarian leaning people don't have a lot of trust in the government. And if you follow me on social media, you'll see I talk about medical facts. And get vaccinated. It's your best chance. Of course the vaccines aren't 100 percent. But if you look at the data, in my district and around the country almost 100 percent of people on ventilators are unvaccinated and 95 percent or greater of people in the ICU are unvaccinated. So get vaccinated, talk to your doctor.
WALKER: All right. Congressman, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.
Dr. Larry Bucshon, appreciate you. Thank you. BUCSHON: Thank you.
WALKER: Crises on multiple fronts. They've got President Biden seeing lower approval ratings. Could they keep falling? Maria Cardona and Scott Jennings will join me next for what's sure to be a lively conversation. See you in a bit.
WALKER: Tonight, new polling shows the chaos in Afghanistan and a surge in COVID cases are taking a toll on the Biden presidency. His approval rating is now down to 44 percent, according to a new "Washington Post"-ABC News poll. And his standing with independents dropped nine points in the past two months to 36 percent.
For perspective, that is virtually the same as President Trump's approval among independents at the end of this term.
Joining me now to discuss is Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Maria Cardona, and former special assistant to President George W. Bush and also a CNN political commentator Scott Jennings.
Welcome to you both. Happy holiday weekend. Maria --
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, there.
WALKER: Hi. Maria, first to you. So we were just mentioning Biden's approval ratings, they're sliding. Also an NPR-Marist poll found 41 percent of the adults including 82 percent of Republicans now strongly disapprove of the job Biden is doing. Do you think these numbers should be concerning for Biden and the Democrats?
CARDONA: Well, look, they certainly aren't numbers the administration loves. But look, part of what being a good leader, good administration, good leadership is not focusing on the short-term snapshots, which is as you know well these polls are, but focusing on what is going to do well for the electorate and therefore for the administration in terms of long-term trends. That's why you see this president focus every single time he gets a chance on vaccinations, on urging Americans to get vaccinated, on talking about the Delta variant, on making sure that Americans understand how focused he is on the economy.
And I think issues, for example, moving forward where we know that the discussion is going to be on infrastructure and on reconciliation, the last hurricane that we had, the wildfires that we had, those are great arguments for how badly we need the infrastructure bill. The less than great numbers on employment and the economy that just happened are great arguments for how badly we need transformational policies for the reconciliation bill that will help middle income and working families in this country. So I think moving forward, what this White House is going to do and
what they are doing is focus on the issues that they know Americans are going to care about. And let's remember it's more than a year and a half, or a year and two months until the midterm elections and that is a gazillion lifetimes in politics, Amara. So there is certainly time for this administration to focus on what they ran on, and I think that will do them very, very well.
WALKER: Right. Yes, it is a snapshot in time. But this has to be very concerning for Democrats. And, Scott, I mean, why do you think Biden is becoming such a polarizing figure, according to the polls?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I want to pick up on what Maria said there at the very end of her comment about let's focus on what they ran on. Well, what Joe Biden ran on was being a moderate sort of, you know, consensus builder. He ran on being honest and he ran on being the candidate that had better judgment. All of those things have been imploded lately by the Afghanistan debacle and the shame following those decisions.
The economy is sputtering a bit, as Maria pointed out. We have small businesses out there that can't find people to come to work and they're facing down the specter of a massive tax increase that could come if this budget reconciliation bill passes. You have the COVID resurgence and on and on and on.
And all through this, Joe Biden, during his campaign and early on, promised he'd be straight and honest with the American people. And time and again I think they're starting to see that he's more politician than, you know, straight-talking Joe, which means that thing he ran on where he was able to compare himself favorably to Trump has been punctured. When you're the president, really there's nobody to post up against.
You're just left alone with the consequences of your decisions and the reality that comes after and the reality right now is the American people simply don't like it. There's a long time between now and the next election. But if I were a Democratic strategist, I'd be very concerned. If Joe Biden goes into the cycle under water, already history would tell you Republicans should do well. It could be a huge blowout at least in the House if Biden remains underwater heading into next November.
WALKER: Well, and speaking of the COVID resurgence, obviously there's a lot of finger-pointing going on, right, and Maria, I want to put up a tweet from former surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams. And he writes of Biden's pandemic response saying, quote, "Cases are up, hospitals full, deaths rising, testing inadequate. How long is 'it's the other guy's fault' going to remain an acceptable answer?"
Does he have a point?
CARDONA: I'll tell you how long. As long as it's Republican governors like Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, the ones that are focused on putting in place policies that actually hurt children, that actually put people's lives in danger. Those policies, Amara, make them have blood on their hands, because we know what works. Masking works, vaccinations work. These governors are focused on doing exactly the opposite.
Look, you asked the question to the doctor that was on right before this about politicizing the whole coronavirus, Delta variant, vaccinations. And it is a fact that it has been the Republican Party that has been focused on misinformation and disinformation that has put people's lives in danger. Americans understand that. The one thing I love or one of the things that I love about Joe Biden and I think Americans do, too, Scott talked about competence, Scott talked about leadership. And yes, he does have all of those things.
Have we ever heard Donald Trump stand up to the American people and say, the buck stops with me, I take responsibility for this decision?
That is what Joe Biden has said time and again about every single decision that he has made. He will live and die by that, no question about that. When the polls or when the ballot box comes around for both the Democrats and for him, but there's plenty of time for him to continue to make focus on make sure that Americans get vaccinated no matter what state they are in, making sure that the economy grows for all of us, not just the 1 percent, which is what happened under Donald Trump, and making sure that he is focused on the economy and everything that he ran on.
Yes, everything that he ran on, Scott. And this, again, this is a snapshot in time. What Americans will remember is what he did to make sure that everyone got vaccinated, the fact that he kept his promise to get us out of the 20-year war when the three other presidents before him could not do that, including Donald Trump, and the fact that he is continuing to focus on the economy.
WALKER: Scott, I mean, just your reaction to what Maria has been saying? And also, Dr. Adams' point there. I mean, isn't it disingenuous for him to be pointing his finger at an administration that has been promoting vaccines when this has been a pandemic of the unvaccinated?
JENNINGS: Well, first of all, Maria said Governor DeSantis in Florida has been doing the opposite of promoting vaccinations. It's simply not true. He's been one of the strongest pro-vaccine governors out there, including also promoting other treatments like monoclonal antibodies which also do work. But he has been a strongly pro-vaccine governor so that's simply a talking point.
CARDONA: Masking, Scott.
JENNINGS: But it doesn't happen to have the truth inside of it.
CARDONA: No. Masking.
JENNINGS: Number two, it is absolutely vital that people get vaccinated. I'll be honest. I'm a little surprised vaccination rates are as high as they are. I was dubious of how this vaccine was going to go over because, you know, frankly I looked at other vaccines we take. And flu shot, you know, gets a low dosage of Americans every year. So I'm actually pretty surprised and proud that we've gotten as high as we have. It's still not high enough. But I actually think the vaccine rates have advanced farther than I might have imagined.
The bottom line here is Joe Biden owns this presidency. He owns everything that happens. And you cannot continue to say the buck stops with me, but it's all Donald Trump's fault. Everybody can see how incongruous those statements are. Does the buck stop with me or is it the other guy's fault? These things are not compatible. When you're the president, you own the results. It's how Donald Trump lost the election.
COVID was raging, he didn't show enough compassion and concern for the American people, and he ended up losing the election. Joe Biden is going to have to own the results of COVID. He's going to have to own the results of the economy and he's going to have to own the fallout of the shame of his Afghanistan decisions, which I'm afraid, according to our military leaders, means a resurgence in al Qaeda and international terrorism.
WALKER: Got it.
JENNINGS: So the buck stops with Donald Trump and he can blame Donald -- sorry, Joe Biden and he can blame Donald Trump all he wants, but that's not going to save him in two or four years.
WALKER: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Maria Cardona and Scott Jennings. And I do want to mention, Scott, your mentioning Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is very pro-vaccine, but it would be hard to tell. I was in that state several times covering his anti-mask fight, and you know, he's been so outspoken about masks. We haven't heard much about him speaking on vaccines. But we're going to leave it there.
Scott Jennings, Maria Cardona, appreciate the conversation.
CARDONA: Thanks, Amara.
WALKER: Extreme weather super charged by climate change, forcing people to seek shelter far from home. Journalist Alexandra Tempus says we are at the dawn of America's great climate migration era with entire communities in a fight for survival. She will join me next.
WALKER: Climate change is here. It is deadly. And my next guest says it will change how and where we live. Journalist Alexandra Tempus joining me now to discuss this.
Welcome, Alexandra. So you're working on a book about climate migration. And in your op-ed for the "New York Times" you say this, "We are now at the dawn of America's great climate migration era. For now it is piecemeal and moves are often temporary, but permanent relocations by individuals and eventually whole communities are increasingly becoming unavoidable."
So as you watch all these disasters play out this week, you know, what were you thinking? How did it make you feel?
ALEXANDRA TEMPUS, JOURNALIST, WRITING BOOK ON CLIMATE MIGRATION: Well, I think it was, you know, obviously devastating and it really pointed -- for me, it pointed to the need for, you know, more public awareness around this concept of moving in response to climate dangers. You know, a new "Washington Post" analysis just found that nearly one- third of Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster this summer alone.
And so your viewers might be used to seeing stories around people fleeing north from Central America or across the Mediterranean due to climate change impacts, but what the research tells us is that actually most climate-driven migration occurs within national borders. And so as we've seen these last couple of weeks with these overlapping disasters. And so, you know, this is why America's great climate migration, it's literally going to reshape this country.
But despite this, we don't always conceive of it as migration or perceive people who are moving around inside their own countries as migrants, and there really is no comprehensive effort to help plan and prepare for it.
WALKER: And that's a concern, right? I mean, just to drill down, I mean, which communities are you talking about and where are they moving or aiming to move?
TEMPUS: Sure. It's all over the country. I mean, some well-known examples are in Louisiana and Alaska, places on coastlines that are very vulnerable. But there are, you know, communities from the Carolinas to California that are considering, you know, retreat from coastlines, that are trying to plan or, you know, coming up with solutions trying to plan for buying people out of their homes where they live so that they can move elsewhere or trying to come up with a way that they can secure funding for relocation.
So it's happening all over not just in coastal areas. We're talking about river towns. We're talking about places that live on the wild land-urban interface like right up against forestland where there are fires and a lot of new housing is built in these areas. So it's happening all over.
WALKER: And lastly, you mentioned this which was concerning, you know, you say look, we're not preparing for this adequately, especially the federal government. And this is why you have communities and organizations and nonprofits and local agencies filling in the gap. What is being done? What needs to be done?
TEMPUS: Right. Well, right now the best we have to offer people who lose their home due to climate change are what's called a home buyout. And so these are, you know, after a hurricane or a flood, states or local agencies can take federal money, usually from FEMA or HUD, and buy out homeowners so that they can use that money to move elsewhere. But there's no best practices or standards for home buyout programs.
There's no expert guidance so that we make sure people actually end up in places that are safer. And it's all -- it often, you know, is tied to spending on home buyouts is often tied to specific disasters. So it's happening in the middle of a crisis and people are having to make decisions around moving, you know, when they've just lost everything. And --
WALKER: Yes. So -- it's so important to be -- I'm sorry to cut you off, Alexandra, but you raised a good point, right? It's so important to be proactive than reactive in such an emotional and chaotic moment. We're going to have to leave it there. We're out of time. But a very important conversation.
Alexandra Tempus, thank you so much.
TEMPUS: Thank you.
WALKER: Well, there is a new online blitz to rewrite the origin story of the coronavirus. Wait until you hear who's behind it. We'll be right back.
WALKER: China has mobilized its vast resources to peddle an outlandish conspiracy theory that blames the U.S. Military for the COVID-19 pandemic.
CNN's David Culver is in Beijing.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara, the investigations into the COVID-19 origins is perhaps one of the most sensitive issues here in China. And that sparked a range of creative and relentless propaganda pushes from China, an apparent effort to make people believe that the virus originated anywhere but here, especially pointing fingers at the U.S.
CULVER (voice-over): A constant barrage of digital articles with sarcastic cartoons, TV reports, documentaries. Even a rap song? All of it part of an aggressive Chinese propaganda campaign aimed to sow doubt and deflect blame when it come to the origins of COVID-19. CNN combing through months of online posts and publications, they reveal a seemingly coordinated effort pushed by state media and diplomats.
Some of the stories appearing authentic and convincing like the work of Wilson Edwards whose online profile suggests he's a biologist from Switzerland. On July 24th, Edwards appeared to post a lengthy article slamming the World Health Organization for its COVID investigation. Claiming the WHO advisory group succumbed to a political tool. A strikingly similar sentiment that's been shared repeatedly by Chinese officials. Look a bit closer and you'll find this was Wilson Edwards' first
Facebook post and he's only got three friends. Still his article got picked up by Voices of South Pacific and shared more than 500 times. We found many of those reposting the article apparent trolls pushing Beijing's agenda.
A deeper dig into Voice of South Pacific finds that the publication is ultimately run by China News Service, a state-controlled news agency. Not surprising, Wilson's pro-China stance got plenty of play online in other state media outlets. That was until the neutral Swiss embassy in Beijing sent out this tweet on August 10th, "Looking for Wilson Edwards. Hoping to find this biologist."
The embassy of Switzerland later concluded he doesn't exist. "If you exist, we would like to meet you," the embassy said. His Facebook account likely to be fake and so, too, that article. Suddenly state media purged all references to Wilson Edwards.
That is just one recent example of China's effort to influence the COVID-19 origins and narrative by deflecting blame for the worldwide pandemic and then staying silent in the early days as it spread in China before it alerted World Health officials. Other efforts include consistently rehashing old conspiracy theories, primarily that the virus started in a lab. No, not this lab. This one. Fort Detrick in the United States. The home of the U.S. Army's biological laboratory.
Though there is no evidence the virus originated here, that has not stopped the Chinese from trying to push their version of a lab leak theory.
ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: The U.S. should invite WHO experts to investigate' Fort Detrick.
CULVER: And people are getting the message, true or not. One conspiracy article picked up by state media Xinhua on July 30th alleged the virus leaked from Fort Detrick to Europe. It was viewed nearly 25 million times on Chinese site WeiBo. The propaganda fueled push might be working, at least in China. State media tabloid "Global Times" claimed more than 25 million people signed an online petition to investigate the U.S. Military.
And just look at the spike in Fort Detrick interest on Chinese search engine Baidu after the initial surge in searches when a WHO field mission was in Wuhan in January of this year.
A second spike in July after Beijing rejected a WHO phase two study and began turning out more propaganda which has since steadily flooded the air waves and cyberspace.
CULVER: And even though President Biden's 90-day intelligence community review on the origins proved inconclusive, Beijing once again openly urged the WHO to investigate the U.S. It seems to have only fueled the fiery war of words over who to blame for more than 4.5 million deaths -- Amara.
WALKER: David Culver, thank you.
New tonight, the moment police officers in New York risked their lives to try to save a family from their flooded home. We'll be right back.