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NBA Great Bill Russell Passes Away At The Age Of 88; Eastern Kentucky Death Toll Rises To At Least 26, Many Others Missing; Manchin Shocks Washington With Surprise $739 Billion Deal. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 31, 2022 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Incredible. "Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World" tonight at 9:00 PM right here on CNN.


All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with this a breaking news, one of the greatest NBA champions of all time, Bill Russell passed away, his family confirming that the longtime Boston Celtics and five-time NBA MVP passed away peacefully today at the age of 88. His wife Jeannine was by his side.

Russell is considered not just a champion on the court, but also a champion for civil rights CNNs Andy Scholes takes a look back at Russell's incredible life.


BILL RUSSELL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I took basic skills and egotistically speaking, I think I had the best command of all the basic skills of basketball as a package of anyone who has ever played.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The champion of champions, Bill Russell won more NBA titles than any player in history and he always had one thing on his mind -- winning.

RUSSELL: Well, one thing I'd love to do, would be back on defense by myself, and have a three on one fast break come to me. I absolutely loved it.

Of course, over half the time, I could stop. I brought defense to a level where it was as important or more important than an offense. But my defense was part of our offense.

SCHOLES (voice over): The 12-time all-star for the Boston Celtics revolutionized the game with his shot blocking ability, but Russell put greater value on victories than individual numbers.

RUSSELL: If I'm really going to be a good team player, I have to be willing to disappear sometimes, be out there without you knowing I am out there.

SCHOLES (voice over): Russell wasn't always such a force on the court, he took the only scholarship he was offered to the University of San Francisco.

In the span of one year, Russell won an NCAA championship, Olympic gold medal, and NBA title and he credits much of his success in life to his parents.

RUSSELL: The first thing I remember is my mother and father loved me. She said, "You must always be willing to fight for yourself. Never be a victim." And that's the way I've conducted my life is that, I have avoided as much as possible ever being a victim.

SCHOLES (voice over): Russell was a private person who wanted little to do with stirring trouble, but given racial tensions, trouble was all around him, whether he liked it or not. He used his fame to become an outspoken backer of the Civil Rights Movement.

RUSSELL: I contributed a great deal to the game, and the game contributed much to my life as it did, it probably made a little more.

I came here, I lived and I'd die. That's what happened. I had a good time.


WHITFIELD: Truly a life well lived, and enduring.

Joining us right now is CNN contributor Bob Costas.

Bob, you're on the phone with us. Thank you so much for being with us. Bill Russell, I mean, he was a gigantic figure, for the NBA, for Civil Rights, human rights. How big of a loss -- how do you measure how big of a loss the passing of Bill Russell is?

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via phone): Well, he's lived a very long life. So it's sad, more so than tragic, but he was a towering figure both literally and figuratively.

When we talk about the greatest players of all time, Michael Jordan's name comes up, LeBron's name is in the discussion. Kareem is in the discussion. Wilt, and others.

But if the question is: Who is the greatest winner in basketball history? He played 13 years, speaking of Bill Russell with the Celtics. They won the NBA title 11 times. And prior to that, he was an Olympic champion in 1956 and at the University of San Francisco, he won two NCAA championships.

So that's 14 significant championships in the space of less than two decades. That's a remarkable achievement.

WHITFIELD: It sure is.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver put out a statement saying this: "Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports. The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics, including a record 11 championships and five MVP awards, only begin to tell the story of Bill's immense impact on our league and broader society."

"Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: The values of equality, respect, and inclusion, that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advanced vigorously for Civil Rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps."

I mean, describe, in your view how that kind of legacy really did rub off on a lot of other athletes, particularly NBA players who came to a realization by way of Bill Russell's example that they could be a force not just on the court, but off the court in a really meaningful way, for them and for various communities.

COSTAS: Before addressing that directly, I want to know this. It's also significant that Bill was the first Black head coach or manager in major professional American sports -- team sports.

When Red Auerbach stepped aside as coach of the Celtics, he named Bill, the player coach, and all he did then was win not just as a player, but as a coach. He won the NBA title in his last year in the league. So there is that. That's a significant first before Frank Robinson became the manager at Cleveland and became the first Black manager in the Major Leagues.

Before others broke through in other sports, he was the first in major American team sports, and he was part of -- to your question, Fred -- he was part of, for lack of a better way to put it, the post Jackie Robinson wave of significant African-American athletes who were socially conscious.

I was on the phone just a few moments ago with Jim Brown, who many people still regard as the greatest running back in NFL history, and he referred to Bill Russell as his brother, not just because they were supreme athletes, but because they were part of that era in American history, when Black athletes were significant socially and is part of the Civil Rights movement.

Muhammad Ali was a global figure, and he stands alone for a variety of reasons. But you have Jim Brown, you have Bill Russell, you have Arthur Ashe in there as well; Tommie Smith and John Carlos, from the Olympics. Very, very significant.

And it wasn't just their athletic excellence, it was that shared experience as Black Americans during that period of time that bonded them together, way beyond their athletic primes and into old age.

WHITFIELD: Beautifully put. Thank you so much, Bob Costas. Appreciate it.

And there are so many ways in which to describe the legend of Bill Russell, and thank you so much for your contribution to doing so.

COSTAS: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Other NBA legends are offering their condolences in the wake of Bill Russell's death. Magic Johnson saying this on Twitter a short time ago: "Bill Russell was my idol. I looked up to him on the court and off. His success on the court was undeniable. He was dominant and great winning 11 NBA championships. Off the court, Bill Russell paved the way for guys like me."

Also joining us right now, Terence Moore. He is a national sports columnist for Terence, so glad you could be with us.

So your first thoughts about Bill Russell and the kind of impact that he has made on and off the court?

TERENCE MOORE, NATIONAL SPORTS COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: You know, what I think of Russell off the bat, you've got two huge buckets when you're talking about this guy. You've got the least important of which, is that he was one of the greatest, if not the greatest basketball player of all time, certainly pre Michael Jordan, then you've got the most important bucket, which was this guy was a huge Civil Rights figure and he doesn't really get enough play for that, he gets -- he does get some attention, but I don't think people really realize how huge he was in that regard.

Now, the first part. You know, again, people have said this, you know, 11 World Championships for 13 years is obscene. I mean, it really is, even though you're talking about that was an easier era to win a World Championships in NBA because there were fewer teams, but there is no disputing the fact that he was in the Big Three when it comes to athletes who are influential away from the field, the court, or the diamond or what have you, and we're talking about Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Bill Russell is right there.

And there's a guy right in the middle of us, his playing career, I mean, he was you know, I think right off the bat that doesn't get a lot of play was back in '63 after Medgar Evers was assassinated in Mississippi. He was a guy that held us up, this integrative scrimmage there just as sort of thumbing his nose at the people who are anti- integration, so you can just go on and on a lot more of those lines about his impact away from the basketball court.

WHITFIELD: Right. And those two areas, I mean, at a minimum, you know, in sports, social consciousness are among the reasons why President Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom and in fact President Obama has now tweeted this just moments ago: "Today, we lost a giant as tall as Bill Russell stood. His legacy rises far higher, both as a player and as a person."


WHITFIELD: You know, you said a lot of people just don't -- there are the images. I mean, that was just such a beautiful moment, wasn't it? You know, when that Medal of Freedom Award was bestowed upon him, and you say, a lot of people don't realize the depths of the impression that he has made in American history as a whole.


WHITFIELD: What are you hoping at a minimum, people can really appreciate about him? And you know, there was a certain Gentle Giant- ness about the way in which he moved in and all of these pages of history that you just spelled out.

MOORE: Yes, and there is no doubt about it, and I want to put this in perspective of everything we just -- you just said and what I just said earlier. Think about this, okay, in 1966, this is only two years after the Civil Rights Act, one year after the Voting Rights Act in Boston, Massachusetts, which is not noted as the most liberal place on the face of the earth.

In 1966, this man, Bill Russell, became the first coach or manager, African-American of any kind in any major sport in 1966. And not only was he highly successful of that, and to put that into further perspective, Major League Baseball didn't have its first African- American manager until 1975, Frank Robinson, and the National Football League in modern times in having its first Black head coach, African- American head coach until 1990 with Art Shell with the Oakland Raiders.

But this guy was doing it in 1966, and doing it at a very high level.

So you put all that together, and you as you mentioned, he did it gracefully. You know, he would be at NBA Finals and All-Star games and, and this was one of my most striking scene. Whenever Bill Russell was in the room, you didn't have to even see him. You can feel him. Everybody knew he was there.

He just had this presence about him that just drew people to him. And he had that contagious laugh also and you just knew that this was a guy of great substance, great comfort, just greatness. Period.

WHITFIELD: So Terence, I remember being in an Olympic Games and just in the audience, and there was all this activity. It wasn't because of what was going on in the playing field. It was because Bill Russell was sitting over there and there was so much excitement and people just trying to get photos of him and everything. So yes, a giant indeed.

And now here's a statement coming from the Boston Celtics, right. Incredible timing, as you were talking about his impact in Boston, and the Celtics saying this: "Bill Russell's DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization from the relentless pursuit of excellence to the celebration of team rewards over individual glory to a commitment to social justice and Civil Rights off the court."

Beautifully said by the Celtics and beautifully said by you as well. Terence Moore, thank you so much.

MOORE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: A giant indeed on the court and off the court, Bill Russell.

All right, let's listen now to Bill Russell speaking at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.


RUSSELL: Fifty years ago, the day before the march, I met Dr. King, one of the great experiences of my life.

But I'm here to join you and to implore you, the fight has just begun and we can never accept the status quo until the word progress is taken out of our vocabulary.


WHITFIELD: Living his words, NBA legend, Bill Russell, now dead at the age of 88 years old.



WHITFIELD: All right, back now to the disaster unfolding in Kentucky. The Commonwealth seeing a new round of rainfall today threatening to disrupt search and rescue efforts following deadly floods.

Right now, rescuers are still scouring Eastern Kentucky looking for survivors. The death toll rising again today. At least 26 people are now confirmed dead after floods washed away homes and roads last week.

And today, Kentucky's Governor warned the full extent of this disaster could take weeks to fully grasp.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): With the level of water, we are going to be finding bodies for weeks, many of them swept hundreds of yards, maybe quarter mile plus from where they were lost.

Water, a big problem with some of these areas. Power and when we get over the rain, it is going to be really hot in this next week, so we are still in an emergency phase.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is live for us from the scene in Eastern Kentucky.

Evan, what is happening there now?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you heard it from the Governor that what today is really about is a race, a race against more rain, and against that really terrible heat coming next week.

Today, what officials are hoping to do is get people sort of stabilized, people who have been displaced by the storm, lost things from this storm, places like this behind me, the Knott County Sports Complex has been turned into a shelter and a distribution point for goods and material and things people need to sort of get themselves back together and hopefully find some way to be stable when that heatwave comes through, and as more rain starts to come through tonight.

Now, the Governor also talked about the level of devastation that he has been seeing, that we've all seen who have been here since last week when the storms came through.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: I have spoken to so many people here who can talk about how unprecedented this is, how historic this is. Things that they never expected to see flooded, flooded. And some of them said they don't know how this place is going to rebuild.

But the Governor has been on a tour of this area of Kentucky today. And at one of the stops, he said, "This place will rebuild no matter what."


BESHEAR: The level of devastation is really unprecedented, and it's going to take us a long time to rebuild. But our commitment, my personal commitment, is we will be here every day, every week and as many years as it takes to rebuild this area and to makes sure that people don't leave this area.

Because here in Kentucky, we love our home and this is an important home for so many of our people.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So over the long term, the plan to make this home again for many people, but in the short term, today, tomorrow, make it safe from more rain and that heat -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

And for more on how this new round of storms is impacting efforts, let's go to meteorologist, Tom Sater in the CNN Weather Center. So Tom, they're in for more.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They are. You know, Fredricka, I wanted to start with this map that shows the power outages first of all, Breathitt, Knott, Perry County -- we have so many issues, not only is power out, cell phone services, nonexistent, it is spotty at best.

Over two dozen bridges alone have been washed out in Breathitt, so the heat is coming. As Evan mentioned, most of it in the 90s, you see as we get into Monday, Tuesday westward, then builds into this region. So that's just going to create more issues with thousands of search and recovery teams, the volunteers, and now the Flood Watch extends across much of Southern Kentucky.

I wouldn't be surprised to see it in Tennessee, parts of North Carolina already though, we're seeing Flash Flood Warnings. Let's start with this. We have a level three out of four for excessive rainfall, and it is not just the area that was hit with that massive flooding. This is a much larger region.

I don't think most people realize just how large this is, but we're starting to see this frontal system that has been meandering around, create the same kind of rainfall, one thunderstorm after another in a linear effect.

So already, we're starting to see in just the last couple of hours, how these lines of storms are not moving.

Now the Hazard, Kentucky area and surrounding counties. This is now sliding southward. That means resources for the state and the Commonwealth of Kentucky may have to be diverted to other counties.

So again, it's a widespread area. They are going to have their hands full in West Virginia, the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, North Carolina unless this system starts to maneuver somewhat, and then on Tuesday, a massive storm with damaging winds moves in from the north.

So one element after another with the power outages, the phone service for the rescue teams and the terrain, this has got to be something, but they're doing the best they can. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not helping them out this afternoon through Tuesday and Wednesday.

WHITFIELD: Unrelenting. All right, Tom Sater, thanks so much.

Still ahead, President Biden still testing positive on Day Two of a rebound COVID case, but his doctor says the President continues to feel well. Details straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is defending his support of a massive new climate and healthcare package. Manchin surprised Democrats and outraged Republicans this week after announcing he and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed on a $739 billion plan to tackle the climate crisis, high drug prices, and the deficit.

Today on CNN, Manchin touted the benefits of the bill and dismissed Republican claims that the measure will make inflation worse.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): There is nothing inflammatory in this bill, even though there's some naysayers, I'm sure you would always hear that. But there is nothing in that.

We're paying down debt, $300 billion. We're increasing production as far as if you want to get the gasoline prices down, produce more energy and produce it here in America. That's what we're doing. And we're investing in the technologies for the future energy.

So we're doing everything to bring manufacturing back, keep people working, and I think it's a great piece of legislation. And on normal times, my Republican colleagues would be for something such as this.


WHITFIELD: All right, with me now to talk more about this as David Swerdlick, he is a CNN political commentator, and a senior staff editor for "The New York Times" opinion.

David, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right, so your reaction to Manchin's -- let's call it a surprise reversal.

SWERDLICK: Yes, it is a surprise, except that, you know, I've come on your air a couple of times over the last year and we've talked about, if Democrats would come closer to what Senator Manchin wants because they have to have his vote, and Senator Sinema's vote, then they would be closer to actually getting a deal.

And even though the Build Back Better Bill stalled out for months last year, and then kind of was left for dead. Now, you have a situation where Senator Manchin has a deal that's closer to what he wants, even if it's not what most Democrats want and they are like on the five- yard line of getting it passed.

You know, less than a trillion dollars of raised revenue, about $370 billion for clean tech. There are some other things, you know, extension of the Affordable Care Act. And so you wouldn't call it the Build Back Better and Senator Manchin doesn't like that name, but you maybe could call it the Quadruple B, the Baby Build Back Better, and at least the administration and Democrats will be able to declare victory if, if Fred, they can get Senator Sinema on board and get it passed in the coming weeks.


WHITFIELD: That's right. In fact, you know, the Democrats need 50 votes to pass. So, what kind of efforts do you think are being made to try to get Arizona Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema onboard?

SWERDLICK: So I think it's another negotiation. This was hammered out between Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer, the Majority Leader, now you're going to have to get Senator Sinema on board, and here is the thing, she often is paired off as a Democratic holdout or a Democratic moderate with Senator Manchin, but number one on policy, she has raised some objections to getting rid of the carried interest loophole, which provides a lower tax rate for some Wall Street folks and that's going to have to be discussed, even though that right now is in the bill.

And then the other thing, just on the politics, is that if you're Senator Sinema, sure, she is often allied with Senator Manchin, but you can imagine she doesn't just want to be seen as the Robin to his Batman, and so you're going to wind up in a situation where the Democrats are going to have to give her something so that she votes with them through all these rounds of amendments that are going to come up, because when you do it through reconciliation, you don't need to break a filibuster, but you will need every single of the 50 Democratic votes plus Vice President Harris as the tiebreaker.

WHITFIELD: And in fact, here is Manchin on Sinema. Listen.


MANCHIN: First of all, Senator Sinema is my dear friend. I agree with her a hundred percent. We're not going to raise taxes, and we don't.

And on that, I think that basically, when she looks at the bill and sees the whole spectrum of what we're doing, and all of the energy we're bringing, and all the reduction of prices, and fighting inflation by bringing prices down, by having more energy, hopefully she will be positive about it.

But you know, she'll make her decision. I respect that.


WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling, he really has a pretty good idea of where she is, and perhaps he and others are just going to allow her to make the announcement herself?

SWERDLICK: Yes, Senator Manchin laid that out pretty nicely and smoothly there, but what I heard is we're talking and I think that's where Democrats are.

You know, Fred, I'm going to hit you with a sports metaphor. Again, I think Democrats are on the five-yard line. They want to get it in the end zone, spike the ball declare a victory as they head into the midterm season, but they're still out there on the field right now. They haven't gotten this across the goal line quite yet.

WHITFIELD: Still have got to get the work done.

All right, how about this, to turn the page a bit. Now, Republicans are getting a whole lot of criticism from Democrats and others, military veterans, activists for voting against a bill to help vets exposed to toxic burn pits.

And today, GOP Senator Pat Toomey defended blocking the bill, accusing Democrats of using accounting gimmicks and playing on the sympathies of voters. Listen to what he had to say.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): This is the oldest trick in Washington. People take a sympathetic group of Americans and it could be children with an illness, it could be victims of crime, it could be veterans who've been exposed to toxic chemicals, craft a bill to address their problems, and then sneak in something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own and dare Republicans to do anything about it because they know they'll unleash their allies in the media and maybe a pseudo celebrity to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn't be there. That's what's happening here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: I mean, he is saying trickery. I mean, Majority Leader

Schumer does plan to hold another burn pit vote in the Senate tomorrow. But is this being bamboozled?

SWERDLICK: No, look, Senator Toomey is sort of sticking up for this kind of fiscally sober green eyeshade Republicanism of a bygone era, but there is not much of a constituency for that on Capitol Hill anymore in either party, right?

Just go back to 2017 when Republicans controlled Congress and overwhelmingly passed President Trump's 2017 tax cut, that kind of sort of, oh, you know, we've really got to watch the accounting rhetoric. It does play with a certain constituency, but this isn't the Republican Party of 10 years ago.

He took a shot there in that clip at the pseudo celebrity, Jon Stewart, with Jon Stewart is comfortable being in that position. I think with Senator Toomey, the issue is that he knows Republicans are on their heels and playing defense here, because most Americans look at this and say, "Wait a second. We know Congress doesn't agree on much, but on burn pits legislation for our troops, if they can't agree on something for this, then what can they agree on?"

WHITFIELD: All right, David Swerdlick, always great to have you. Thanks so much.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: President Biden had six close contacts prior to yesterday's positive COVID test that has sent him back into isolation according to a White House official.

Biden appears to have a rebound case after being treated with the antiviral drug Paxlovid. The White House doctor says the President feels well and Biden says he continues to work.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey folks, Joe Biden here. I tested positive this morning. Going to be working from home for the next couple of days. And I'm feeling fine. Everything is good.

But Commander and I have got a lot of work to do.


WHITFIELD: By last Wednesday, Biden had resumed public appearances after testing negative for the virus.

We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: While economists debate whether the US is in a recession, housing costs continue to tighten the wallets, but a new report found that despite record high rent, first time homebuyers may not necessarily be better off.

Let's to crunch some of the numbers with Danielle Hale. She is the Chief Economist for, and she's joining me live right now.


WHITFIELD: So good to see you. So what's your assessment today on the rent or buy decision? And how do people make that decision? What are the factors they need to consider, besides money?

DANIELLE HALE, CHIEF ECONOMIST, REALTOR.COM: Well, it is so often the case in real estate, it really depends on where you live. But we looked at the data in our June Rental Report and we had also looked at this trade off question in our January Rental Report.

In January, it was about half and half. Half of the 50 largest metros roughly, it made sense to buy and the other half, it made sense to rent.

Now, it's about three quarters and one quarter in favor of renting. So in 38 of the 50 largest markets, it makes more sense to rent if you're just comparing the monthly costs, how much it's going to cost you in rent versus how much it's going to cost you to buy and this is because rents are rising, but home buying costs are going up more because mortgage rates are generally higher than they were this time last year.

So there are some other factors to consider, but on a month to month basis, you're generally going to be paying less for a place to live if you're renting as opposed to buying.

WHITFIELD: In fact, average mortgage rates have surged more than two percentage points since January. When could homeowners hope to see those numbers decline?

HALE: Well, in general, even though we see some declines from week to week, in fact, just this week, mortgage rates dropped a little bit, they are so much higher than they were in January, that we're not going to get back to those January levels anytime soon.

The Fed is tightening monetary policy that tends to push up long term rates as the economy gets its footing back under it, and so the same is true for homebuyers. They can generally expect higher rates in the future.

And so, if they are shopping in the market right now, I would generally advise shoppers to consider not only what mortgage rates are today and consider what your budget looks like with that monthly payment, but also think about what would happen if mortgage rates were to go up a little bit.

But right now, about 5.3 percent, but they have been as high as 5.8 percent in the last couple of weeks, and that can make a big difference than what's affordable. So, consider a range of mortgage rates when you're thinking about your


WHITFIELD: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates, you know, again for the fourth time in five months, and data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Americans are saving much less than they did a year ago.

So any advice for people about -- you know, who want to cut and tighten up their budget, but they've got to make some decisions on where do they trim? Where do they cut back on their spending so that they can have a better chance of saving?

HALE: Yes. It is tough. So, a lot of households will really look at big expenditure categories, and housing is the biggest for many households. Most households are spending somewhere between a quarter, maybe 30, maybe a third of their income on housing.

So cutting back there, if you can is great. It is getting harder to do. The good thing is, in today's economy, workers remain in the driver's seat, and that means they may have flexibility to work remotely, or in a hybrid work situation that means they can maybe look out further into the suburbs, maybe into another metro entirely and there are relatively more affordable metros and even you know, the suburbs remain more affordable than downtown. So that can be an option to try to cut back on your housing costs if you have that flexibility.

And as the report showed, in some markets, it is better to buy in these tend to be affordable markets in the Midwest and in the south, areas like Pittsburgh and Birmingham and St. Louis, where even on a monthly basis, it can make more sense to buy as opposed to rent.

WHITFIELD: All right, Danielle Hale, good to see you. Thanks so much.

HALE: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: Okay, so the lucky winner of Friday's Mega Millions jackpot struck gold. But guess what, we still don't know who that person is. We've heard that they haven't even claimed that prize yet.

The Illinois Director of the lottery said they have not heard from the ticket holder and encourage everyone to check their numbers. Is it possible that maybe they don't even realize that they won $1.34 billion?

Well, just in case, the winner has 12 months to claim their prize. However, they have only 60 days to choose between the cash option or not.

All right, coming up, in the new episode of "United Shades of America," Kamau Bell visits Northern California, which has seen some of the most deadly and destructive wildfires in the State's history.

We'll talk with Kamau about how locals are learning to coexist with the wildfires right after this.



WHITFIELD: All right, new in to CNN this hour, nearly 60 hikers have been rescued from a trail near the California-Oregon border as the raging McKinney Wildfire continues to grow. That fire has now consumed more than 50,000 acres in Northern California prompting the State's Governor to declare a State of Emergency.

A mandatory evacuation order is in place for part of Siskiyou County. Residents within the evacuation zone there are being asked to leave immediately.

Nearly, 2,000 people have already been forced to flee their homes. Officials say the blaze started on Friday and has been exacerbated by winds from lightning storms this weekend, and crews are working to battle the fire, which is only one percent contained.

This week on an all-new episode of "United Shades of America," W. Kamau Bell visits wildfire stricken Northern California to find out why these catastrophic fires are happening and what if anything we can do to prevent them.

Here's a preview



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They found that the economic impact of the health effects of the lowered air quality was just as high as all of the destruction of structures, literally things burning down.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": Yes. So my perception in the time that I've been here, is that that the wildfires are affecting bigger swaths of California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Basically, like 10 times more areas are burning per year now than there was in the 70s or 80s.

BELL: Why is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you know, there are two things. The climate change issue, you know that's a global problem, and it's going to continue to get warmer and in the west, that means drier, more conducive to fires, but also, we have huge buildup of fuels because of fire suppression.


WHITFIELD: Joining us now is the host of "United Shades of America," W. Kamau Bell. He is also the director of the Emmy nominated series, "We Need to Talk about Cosby," and the co-author of "The New York Times" bestseller, "Do the Work: An Anti-Racist Activity Book," and the resume gets longer and longer.

Congratulations, Kamau.

BELL: Thank you. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, so as it pertains to tonight's episode, you know, we know that climate change is making the wildfire situation worse, really around the world. But help us dive a little bit deeper and we heard your guests talk about, there is more fuel out there to burn, it's so much drier. What are all the things that are contributing to this huge global problem?

BELL: I mean, a lot of this is about like land maintenance, and as much as each individual California can do their job of maintaining their own area that they have. The Federal government owns 45 percent of the land out here, and so if we don't maintain the land and actually respect, like all the native wisdom we have out here, about how to maintain the land, whether that's cultural burning, or also, just making sure that there's not a lot of fuel for the fire, these fires will spread a lot quicker.

WHITFIELD: You had some very powerful conversations with firefighters and wildfire victims. What did they tell you about the kind of impact that these fires are making on their communities? Their own livelihoods?

BELL: I mean, I think we forget that firefighters in California often are often fighting wildfires in their own communities. So, it's the idea that like, we talked to some firefighters who went and saw that their own houses that burned down and then went back to fight the fires.

So this is not -- they're not separate from these things. They're dealing with it in their own communities and other communities, and as they said, the season of fire is getting longer and worse in California.

WHITFIELD: And then Kamau, while I have you. I mean, we've got to talk about NBA legend, Bill Russell, who died at the age of 88. We've heard some beautiful, you know, recollections of the kind of impact that he has made on and off the court. And actually, in last week's episode, you went to Boston to find out how athletes are speaking up leading change using their platforms, and you talked about Russell, you know, and how he was a pioneer?

BELL: Yes, I mean, we couldn't have done an episode about Boston and sports and not talk about Bill Russell. You can't do an episode about activism sports without talking about Bill Russell. So I think when we see today, professional athletes even if they take heat with being social justice warriors or speaking out, it is nothing compared to what Bill Russell and the athletes of his day took.

Because now athletes can build being social justice activists into their brand in the way that Bill Russell was only taking heat from the fans, but not just because he was Black in Boston, but also because he was speaking up in Boston.

WHITFIELD: And then, Kamau, while I have you, I mean, we have more, you know, breaking news now on the passing of a legend, actress Nichelle Nichols has died.

She is best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in the iconic sci- fi show "Star Trek." Nichols broke ground as one of the first Black actresses cast in a starring role on television and was part of the first scripted interracial kiss on national TV in 1968, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

And you know, that's on screen, the impact that she made, and off screen, Nichols also worked with NASA to increase diversity in the space program.

I mean, she was a pioneer on so many levels. She was 89 years old, at losing her, and look how beautiful she has been just spanning so many decades.

I mean, two powerful icons. I mean, trailblazers, lost to us in one day.

BELL: Yes, and I can real quick just -- there's an incredible, incredible story of her deciding after the first season of "Star Trek" that she wanted to leave the show because she wanted to go to Broadway and she was at a camp, some sort of event with Martin Luther King, Jr. and he specifically said, "You can't leave 'Star-Trek.' That's the only show I let my kids watch." That story was told to me by Flora Richardson on the "United Shades of America."

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's beautiful. That's beautiful. And you know, hey, when Dr. King speaks, you listen and that's what she did.

BELL: Yes, he is.

WHITFIELD: All right. Okay. All right, Kamau Bell, good to see you. Of course we'll be watching this evening. Thanks so much for your perspective on these two icons.


WHITFIELD: Be sure to tune in, everybody on an all-new episode of "United Shades of America" with W. Kamau Bell tonight at 10:00 PM right here on CNN.

And thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The CNN NEWSROOM continues with Jim Acosta after this.