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POWs Killed in Russian Held Facility; Millionaire Grain Exporter Killed in Missile Bombing; All Eyes to First Shipment of Grain; Extreme Temperatures Felt in the U.S. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, some of the stronger shelling in parts of Ukraine since the war began. We are live in hart hit Mykolaiv this hour.

Compromise and movement in Washington, is President Biden's strategy of governing from the middle finally paying off? We'll take a look.

Plus, from historic flooding to catastrophic wildfire, a climate state of emergency here in the United States.

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Thanks for being with us.

We begin in Ukraine where there is more fallout from Thursday's brutal attack on a detention facility in Russian held territory in the east. On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said that Russia must be held accountable for that attack. Kyiv says dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians were killed in the strike.

Moscow claimed Ukraine is responsible. Meanwhile, the International Red Cross says it is still waiting for access to the site. To the north, missile strikes were also reported in Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv. Ukraine says that Russian forces have been stepping up attacks on the city in recent weeks, likely trying to force them to pull resources from the frontline to protect civilians.

Meanwhile, this was the scene in the Odessa region after a Russian missile strike set off a grass fire. According to local officials, Russian forces fired at least two missiles from occupied Crimea. But, the heaviest shelling on Sunday was reported in the southern city of Mykolaiv. The mayor told CNN it was one of the worst attacks he's seen since the war began. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemning the strike in his nightly address. Take a listen.


Ukrainians, within these 24 hours, Mykolaiv and the region experienced the most brutal shelling during the entire period of the full-scale war, dozens of missiles and rockets. The occupiers hit residential buildings, schools, social infrastructure and industrial facilities.


CHURCH: And for more, CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Mykolaiv, and Nic, just a tragic situation here.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is less intense shelling last night. But nevertheless, there was still shelling. One of the buildings hit a hospital, set ablaze, a lot of destruction within that building. Not clear why a medical facility would be targeted. But that's what we saw when we woke up yesterday morning and went out to take a look around at the impact of that very heavy overnight shelling.

And the mayor concerned as well when we spoke to him. That there are people who are collaborating with Russia in the city to spot at what they think could be targets and pass that on to the Russians.


ROBERTSON: With dawn, an end to Mykolaiv's heaviest night of shelling so far, but not to the fear it brings in the immediate aftermath, fires to be put out, the only fatalities at this residential mansion. Multimillionaire businessman Oleksiy Vadaturskyi and his wife Raisa was sheltering in the basement when their home took a direct hit, neighbors still in shock.

MAXIM, MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE RESIDENT: I don't know what to do. It's unbelievable that it can in one moment just destroy everything.

ROBERTSON: Maxim has lived here almost 20 years, but maybe no more.

MAXIM: We just don't want to stay here right now.

ROBERTSON: This crater here gives you an idea of just how big the blast was, debris driven drawn down here, and the windows of the building blown out. Other buildings around here also hit, those with military links, off limits to our cameras. The mayor is concerned Russian sympathizers at work.


OLEKSANDR SENKEVYCH, MAYOR, MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE (through translator): I'm sure that they have spies who are going around the city, and they say like, I saw the number of machines, or the people, military people -- they send this information and Russia attacks them.

ROBERTSON: And do you think those saboteurs might have helped in the attacks last night?

SENKEVYCH (through translator): I'm sure they helped. ROBERTSON: Within hours, life returning to what passes as normal,

pensioners and others in line for drinking water. The city's clean water supply destroyed months ago.

"They hit us, and they hit us hard. From 1 a.m. until morning," Valentina tells us. "We are scared. We want to leave. But that's how life is for us now."

Where the mansion was hit, and residents are richer, another neighborhood of the dead businessmen tells me he can't take it anymore. That he'll leave. Not clear if high-profile businessmen Oleksiy Vadaturskyi was an intended target. President Zelenskyy held him a hero. His death and the up-tempo strikes here chilling the city's otherwise resilient mood.


ROBERTSON: So, the mayor told me as well that he feels that residents should leave the city. He said that's been his message for some time. The original population here before the war, 480,000, he said it's now down to 230,000. But his very clear message for people is that the city is not safe. You need to leave until the shelling stops.

CHURCH: All right, Nic Robertson, joining us there live from Mykolaiv with that message. I appreciate it.

Well, Ukrainian and Turkish officials say the first ship carrying Ukrainian green has now left the port of Odessa. The ship is expected to arrive in Istanbul on its on Tuesday before heading to its final destination. Resuming exports could be a crucial first step in easing the global food crisis sparked by the war which has trapped millions of tons of grain inside Ukraine for months.

And CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now from London with more on this. So, good morning to you, Clare. So, the first grain ship has left the Ukrainian port of Odessa. What more are you learning?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary, we're hearing from this morning from the joint coordination center which is part of this Black Sea grain initiative that was brokered by the U.S. and Turkey that brought Russia and Ukraine to the table to try and get these grain shipments out to global markets. They authorize the ship. It's called the Razoni. It's a Sierra-Leon flagged vessel to set sail from Odessa.

This morning we could see it now moving on satellite maps. It is heading out of the port of Odessa. It's set to transition eventually into Turkish territorial waters where it will be inspected. This is part of the agreement. And then it will carry on the Bosporus and eventually to its final destination of Tripoli in Lebanon.

It is set -- said to be carrying, Rosemary, 26,000 tons of corn set to a very welcome, obviously move set to leave Ukraine now and head to the global markets. But this is a critical first test. It was only 10 days ago that Russia and Ukraine, of course with the U.N. and Turkey agreed on this initiative to get this grain out to the global markets. This first ship will be a critical test of whether the system actually works and whether there's just enough trust on both sides to get these shipments moving in a meaningful way that would alleviate the hunger that we're seeing in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world.

CHURCH: Yes, I wanted to talk to you about that and get an idea of what the process is.


CHURCH: How do they ensure that this grain shipment, of course others in the convoy have safe passage?

SEBASTIAN: So, Ukraine has the responsibility initially, Rosemary, of sort of navigating the ships out of the ports. They have apparently demined some of the critical areas of course not the whole of the Black Sea because they are extremely worried that any demining will allow Russian ships an opening to attack their ports.

But the Ukrainian captains are navigating the ships out into the woods of the Black Sea. They then are inspected in Turkish territorial waters by the JCC, the Joint Coordination Centre and then allowed to travel through the Bosporus and on to their -- their onward destination. Ships that are also going back into the Ukrainian ports are inspected in case some might be smuggling weapons.

So, there are a lot of inspections. There's a lot of oversight the Joint Coordination Centre is also monitoring the movements of these ships, keeping a close eye on any ships moving through the safe maritime corridors in the Black Sea, a very complicated tense and dangerous moment for these ships. Because of course it's been about five months now since we've seen exports from these ports in Ukraine.

So, as I said, a very important first test today as to how this process is going to go.


CHURCH: Yes, we'll continue to watch it of course. Clare Sebastian, joining us live from London. Many thanks.

Well, the governor of Kentucky says at least 28 people have died from the massive flooding that hit the state. That number could rise as eastern Kentucky is expected to see even more rainfall by Monday. Floodwaters have already covered streets and homes and caused blackouts in some areas. The governor says it's one of the most devastating floods the state has ever seen. Rescue crews are still searching for people missing after the severe floods late last week.

And as a wildfire rage nearby, county officials in Oregon say rescue teams have evacuated nearly 60 hikers from a trail on the California side of the border. The McKinney Fire has consumed more than 50,000 acres so far. That is more than 20,000 hectares. California's governor has declared a state of emergency in the surrounding areas. And mandatory evacuations are underway with nearly 2,000 people forced to flee their homes. Officials say the fire started on Friday and was made worse by thunderstorms and wind over the weekend. For more on the story, Pedram Javaheri is at the CNN weather center.

And Pedram, a tragic story of extremes, flooding and wildfires here in the United States. Fire is also a scorching Portugal and Italy. What is the latest on all of this and the forecast?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, a very unfortunate setup, Rosemary. When it comes to the weather pattern that has led to some of this here across the eastern portion of the U.S. Severe weather in place here for Monday afternoon, potentially but we've got the elements that are producing very warm moisture air coming up to the gulf, cool dry air to the north.

Where we have the stationary frontal battery set up it's where we have the historic rainfall in a few pockets, whether you're in St. Louis, a couple of days ago early last week as much as 10 plus inches came down in the matter of a few hours. And then of course eastern areas of Kentucky, you see these colors indicated in pink you know there's a serious event.

And the water table now has risen so high that the soil is saturated. Any additional rainfall, even if it's one or two inches could lead to surface flooding. And that's the concern here for a lot of people that have dealt with so much in recent days.

So, there's a slight risk across eastern areas of Kentucky. And also diminish risk there going into Tuesday. But again, any additional rainfall, model suggest maybe an inch, maybe two inches could come down here that could be problematic.

Now, the northwestern area of the United States, temperatures climbing up into the 90s and 100s. Look at Seattle, record temperature 95 degrees six consecutive days to wrap up the month of July with temps exceeding 90 degrees. That has never happened in recorded history. And now the heat now shifts a little farther towards the east across the inland areas where temps could get as hot as 110 degrees.

But along areas of Seattle and Portland we're beginning to see some of the cooling trend. Temps drop down to 81 degrees on Monday, eventually around 70 degrees. But notice what happens, again, towards the latter portion of the week, big-time heat once again expected to return across portions of the northwest.

We'll watch this develop here and then watch cooler temperatures they stay put for a couple of days before the trans shift. Rosemary, also watching what's happening across areas of the southwest because some beneficial rainfall across portions of New Mexico and Arizona, both of these states sitting at 98 percent drought coverage, incredible drought in place. But the monsoons have been rather good here. When it comes to the amount of rainfall, they've produced they continue to keep this area somewhat unsettled. Maybe get some moisture working its way towards the Oak Fire near Yosemite.

But beyond this, the monsoon is really helping out parts of the southwest, and unfortunately, not reaching areas as far north as we would like but, again, bringing some beneficial rainfall to this region. CHURCH: All right, well a little bit of good news there. Pedram Javaheri, many thanks for bringing us up to date. I appreciate it.

Well, communities in Kentucky and California are looking to rebuild in the wake of devastating floods and fires. And the U.S. Senate is under growing pressure to tackle the climate crisis.

But as CNN's Bill Weir reports it's just a drop in the bucket.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in the U.S. fire and water are the themes of the climate change week in the news. In the heartland of the middle of the country, Kentucky, to St. Louis two one in a thousand-year storms hit within hours of each other, dumping nine inches, some 23 centimeters of rain within 12 hours, overwhelming the infrastructure in that part of the country taking up some 50 bridges or so.

The governor has been upping the death toll now into well past two dozen. It could be changing by the hour as entire homes were washed downstream as well. Then, there's heat in the forecast in the center of the country, the heat also in triple digits of Fahrenheit in the west fueling fires there. Near Yosemite the Oak Fire burned some 4,000 hectares, which just within a few hours, it spreads so fast even though the winds were not howling at the time.


Another fire has broken out in the California-Oregon border, near the Klamath River there as well. These are creating their own weather, thunderstorm that create lightning, fire breathing dragon storms, they are pyrocumulonimbus clouds creating headlines and concerns there as fire crews rushed to that.

And meanwhile, this all plays out against the back drop of politics in Washington after what seemed like all climate legislation was dead, a compromise bill led by Joe Manchin of the coal state of West Virginia and Chuck Schumer of New York gives the most money the United States has ever put towards this cause. But it is still drop in the bucket when you consider the problem.

There will be billions of incentives for people to buy electric vehicles, more innovation, more green energy technology construction in this country. Some money for climate capture or carbon capture storage as well which could be a huge industry. But at the same time, ExxonMobil and Chevron release quarterly profits of $40 billion this week. That is, they are making more profit than the United States will spend every year for the next 10 years on the problem.

And so, very much, oil and gas is writing the loss as they come down even as the stories break around the country of intensifying on natural disaster.

Bill Weir, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: And still to come, Senator Manchin defends his bill proposal, slamming reports it will raise taxes and add to inflation. We will hear his reaction, that's next.

Plus, anger in the U.S. Capitol after more than two dozen Republican senators block a bill expanding medical coverage for millions of veterans exposed to toxic chemicals. We'll have the details on the other side of the break.

JAVAHERI: The CNN weather watch is an association with visit Maldives. Here's what's happening across the United States. Big-time heat across the large area of the south-central United States, where it's not hot, quite a bit of activity here in the past several days when it comes to severe weather.

Look at the Midwestern United States. Some heavy rainfall in the past couple of days across portions of the Great Lakes, certainly included areas of Chicago as well, and look at the severe wind reports exceeding 600 over the weekend largely across the Midwest on the parts of the northeast. And even about a dozen tornado reports to be had as well across this region of the U.S.

And notice that is a level two, a slight risk, but for a densely populated area from Washington, to Philly, New York, and Boston where afternoon storms could prompt some severe weather. And it is plenty hot here before that front arrives.

Heat indices across some of these areas climbing above 40 degrees, and into areas of the plains and as the south-central United States, as hot as 43 to 44 degrees. Yet again here dangerously hot weather, and even the Pacific Northwest that has really staved off more than a lot of people across the U.S. have been dealing with. Now it's happening into some big-time heat over the next several days.

Vancouver, B.C., 26 degrees, pretty hot for their standards; 25 in Chicago; Winnipeg at 27 degrees, and you'll notice in New York City begin to see a cooling trend here, at least for a couple of days. And eventually, another warming trend by late this weekend.



CHURCH: U.S. President Joe Biden is still testing positive after a rebound COVID case. The White House physician says that the president continues to feel well as he isolates. A White House official said the president had six close contacts prior to the positive tests he received on Saturday. None of those contacts have since tested positive.

In the coming hours in Washington Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to hold another procedural vote to break a filibuster after a group of Republicans blocked what is known as the burn pit bill.


CHURCH: Troops took to the steps of the capitol this weekend to express their anger at 25 Republican lawmakers who pulled their support for the bill that would expand medical coverage for millions of troops. They were exposed to toxins from the military so-called burn pits during their time in service. One Republican senator defended his decision.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): This is the oldest trick in Washington. People take a sympathetic group of Americans and they could be children with an illness, they could be victims of crimes, they could be veterans who have 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 a false accusation to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn't be there. That's what's happening here.

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): There is a lot of fast ones that are polled in Washington, D.C. And quite honestly, nobody ever steps up to the plate and stops that kind of stuff from happening that happens like an overseas contingency account which is exactly the kind of fund that Senator Toomey thinks is in this bill, but is not.

And it was passed to keep the war going in Afghanistan. That is the reason we're here talking about burn pits today. Bottom line there is no fuss. But this is the same bill we passed on the 16th of June. And it should be passed again.


CHURCH: Meantime, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is defending his support of a massive new climate and health care passage. Manchin surprise Democrats and outraged Republicans after announcing he and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed on a $739 billion plan to tackle the climate crisis and reduce the deficit.

On Sunday, Manchin touted the benefits of the bill and dismissed Republican claims that it will make inflation worse. Take a listen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): There is nothing inflammatory in this bill even though there is some naysayers. I'm sure you don't always hear that. But there is nothing in that. We are paying down debt, $300 billion. We are 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 technology 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.


CHURCH: Democrats are hoping to pass the bill before the Senate leaves for its scheduled August recess.

For more let's bring in Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and host of the Passing Judgment podcast. Always good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, a lot going on in U.S. politics. But let's start with the big picture. And Fareed Zakaria recently wrote this in the Washington Post. Is it possible that despite all the partisan noise and expert disbelief, President Joe Biden is actually managing to do something he promised to do during his campaign? Govern from the center. Zakaria saying this after compromise deal was worked out Wednesday between Senator Joe Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on climate change, and before that, notable achievements on semiconductor production, gun reform, and infrastructure.


So, Jessica, is Joe Biden showing that governing from the middle is possible?

LEVINSON: I think he's doing the best he can under the circumstance. And there are some changes. And you just listed them off. And those are big changes. But they're a lot less than I think Democrats wanted and a lot less, frankly, in some areas than the majority of Americans wanted. Think about gun control. Think about climate change.

So, we have seen movement but I don't think it's what, frankly Americans expected when they elected a Democrat to the White House. Democrats control the House and the Senate. So, Joe Biden is governing from the center, I guess, in 2022, which means giving concessions and getting in a lot of areas, frankly, incremental change.

CHURCH: And Fareed Zakaria also wrote that being a big tent party is hard. But in a large diverse country of 330 million people, it's the only way to gain working majority. And Democrats are now better positioned, he says, than Republicans to achieve a broader appeal. Do you agree with that assessment?

LEVINSON: So, it's a little rosy from my perspective, but it is absolutely true that Democrats have for so many reasons and for so many years had to be the big tent party. Of course, America is different than so many other countries because we really only have two major parties.

And so particularly Democrats, I think, have a variety of different perspectives, different stakeholders, and different constituencies that they have to play to. So even within the party there is a lot of compromise before they even come forward with the position.

Republicans tend to be a lot more organized, a lot more on point, and there tends to be less problem trying to bring everyone into the fold, because they are frankly already on the talking points. The big question of course is, can you keep something like the Biden coalition together for the midterms? Can Democrats do that? I think this helps them, but we're having this conversation obviously in the suburbs. The midterms are about 100 days, 99 days away.

CHURCH: Yes. And that's the problem, isn't it? Why has it taken President Biden so long to get to this point? And is it too late for him to rally sufficient support ahead of the midterms?

LEVINSON: So, a lot of the midterms does have to do with whether or not there's legislative achievement. But I think a lot of the midterms has to do with what is happening with respect to the economy and inflation. For reasons that are both fair and unfair voters really blame the president and the party in power when it cost them more to do everything, when the economy is not in a good place when they're losing their jobs, for instance.

And so, I think the big decision when it comes to what's going to happen in the midterms, it's not actually January 6, it's not actually these significant but in some ways still incremental legislative achievements that we're talking about. It's not governing style, it's the economy over which the party in power has, in a lot of ways, limited control.

CHURCH: Yes, and I have to ask you this. Because, I mean, we are questioning why the Biden administration has struggled to communicate. Some pretty impressive achievements like low employment, turning around COVID deaths, uniting the E.U. and NATO against Russia and its war in Ukraine. The climate change deal we've talked about that could be the largest deficit reduction package in a decade. The first bipartisan gun control legislation passed in a generation and a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill.

The Biden administration should be reminding voters of these achievements every single day. But they are not. And that's reflected in Joe Biden's very low approval ratings. Why have they failed to get that message out, do you think?

LEVINSON: I mean, I think that's a question that they are asking themselves the Democrats up and down the ticket and throughout the country are asking themselves which it really does feel like the president is on the defensive. We know that obviously the 2020 election was a unique election. And, it has as much to say about not being in favor of President Trump as it did in being in favor of President Biden, now President Biden and Democratic principles and policy goals.

But the Biden administration has not done a fantastic job at messaging. And I think a lot of that has really been gobbled up in, one, our current, I kind of hate this phrase, but information ecosystem where there is so much disinformation. Where there's so much chaos. And also, where people, I think, in some ways have tuned out and they're more focused on, again, things that aren't really within the president's control. With is, how much does it cost me at the gas station.

CHURCH: Yes, it seems to get down to that. Jessica Levinson, thank you as always for your analysis. I appreciate it.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

CHURCH: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi heads to Asia with a congressional delegation amid tensions with China over a possible but unconfirmed stop in Taiwan.


A live report from Tokyo straight ahead. Plus, Iraq at a tipping point. The U.S., Iran and others watch closely as protesters keep storming the parliament. We'll have a live report from the region. That's next.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a team of Democratic representatives will begin their trip to Asia and Singapore. But there is no mention of a potential stop in Taiwan, yet. Over the course of two days, Pelosi and the delegation will meet with Singapore's president and prime minister along with cabinet members and business leaders.

CNN's Blake Essig is in Tokyo and joins us now with the latest. Good to see you, Blake. So, what more are you learning about where do Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to include Taiwan in her upcoming Asia trip. And what the consequences might be if she does?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I think we're just going to have to wait and see. And I think whether or not she visits China is absolutely going to have a reaction. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has kicked off her tour of Asia after a refueling stop in Hawaii. Singapore is the first of four plants stops. That's according to a statement released by Pelosi's office. Or the other three stops include Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

Now, despite recent speculation that the speaker would be making a fifth stop in Taiwan, the statement made no mention of the self- governed island. That of course doesn't mean that the rumor visit to take -- that rumor visit won't in fact take place.


Admiral Mike Mullen who actually visited Taiwan earlier this year in March with a delegation of private citizens and former officials says that he thinks that a surprise visit to Taiwan is possible. Take a listen.


MIKE MULLEN, FORMER U.S. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: She's been there many, many times in that area of the world. She feels strongly about supporting the kinds of values that we stand for and working with our friends. So, again, and Taiwan has been a friend for a long time, and particularly, in a bipartisan way. So, it wouldn't surprise me if she went. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ESSIG: Now, the admission of Taiwan from the speaker's agenda falls in line with what we have seen before from other U.S. officials on visits to this part of the world. Experts also point out that not listing Taiwan on the itinerary is consistent with the U.S.'s one- China policy, which acknowledges Beijing's position that Taiwan is part of China.

Now Taiwan's premier was asked about the potential Pelosi visit earlier today, and you might have expected didn't have an answer to the question whether or not she's going to be visiting the island. He said that Taipei warmly welcomes any foreign VIP friends to visit Taiwan. And that the government will make appropriate arrangements to facilitate any visits by foreign guests.

Experts say that Taiwanese authorities are likely keeping a low profile to avoid the perception that Taipei is encouraging the speaker's visit which could potentially provoke Beijing. Now, whether Pelosi's visit to Taiwan happens or not tensions over the Taiwan Strait have intensified with the simple prospect of her visit enraging China as a result.

Beijing has vowed to respond and some Chinese analysts have suggested that response could involve the military while there is no indication it's related to a Pelosi visit.

Just this past weekend, China conducted a live fire exercise opposite Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait with Chinese state media reporting that another drill planned to take place in the South China Sea, set to start tomorrow and run through Saturday also set to take place.

Now, over the weekend, a PLA air force spokesperson also addressed the importance of conducting fly around operations of Taiwan, which he said are meant to enhance the capability to defend China sovereignty and territorial integrity. It's worth pointing out that for at least a year China has been frequently flying warplanes into Taiwan's self- declared air defense identification zone which is different from its sovereign airspace.

Now, these incursions put pressure on Taiwan's air force to scramble its own fighter jets to warn away the Chinese aircraft. The People's Liberation Army is also celebrating army day today. Now during this annual celebration, the PLA typically reveal some of its latest weaponry.

Again, these recent drills conducted by the PLA and the fly around operations are likely planned in advance in an unrelated possible visit to Taiwan by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right, Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo, many thanks for that update. I appreciate it.

In Iraq, powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is cheering on his supporters, calling it a golden opportunity as they occupy the parliament. Thousands of people storm Baghdad's green zone twice in the past week angered that one of Al-Sadr's rivals was nominated as prime minister.

Right now, the cleric supporters are holding a sit in to derail efforts from other groups to form the country's next government.

CNN's Nada Bashir is tracking developments from her vantage point in Istanbul. She joins us now live. Good to see you, Nada. So, what more are you learning about this political crisis playing out in Iraq and where it might be going?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, Rosemary, these protests are certainly gaining momentum. These are the largest demonstrations we've seen in Baghdad since elections were held back in October. As you mentioned there, the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issuing a statement yesterday, calling for people and his supporters of course to take to the streets. Hs supporters have largely made up the majority of these demonstrations. They are the driving force behind this latest protest movement.

But in that statement yesterday, he described these demonstrations as a golden opportunity for all Iraqis to bring about political reform. And as you mentioned there, these protests were sparked on Wednesday in response to the nomination of Sadr's rival, Mohammed al-Sudani on Monday for the position of prime minister. This follows months and months of political deadlock.

Muqtada Al-Sadr unable for the last almost 10 months now to form a government. And actually he, and more than 70 of his lawmakers issued a mass resignation back in June in response and in protests to this political deadlock.


But although those protests were sparked on Wednesday in opposition to Mohammed al-Sudani's nomination on Monday. These really have evolved and gained momentum Sadr's movement now calling for a complete overhaul over the political system in Iraq. They are demanding that the parliament be dissolved, that elections be held. They've told supporters demonstrated that this is an opportunity to bring about reforms to the political system as a whole constitutional reform, electoral reform. Accusing his opponents and others in government of presiding over a system of corruption, injustice, and working in the interests of Iran, as opposed to the Iraqi people.

And in response to that statement yesterday actually we saw thousands once again, marching towards the Iraqi parliament. Where, as you said, they have been staging a sit-in over the weekend.

Actually, we had teams on the ground in Baghdad speaking to protestors over the weekend. Many of them saying that they are simply fed up with the stagnation we've seen in the political system over the last few months that the country is dealing with an economic crisis, rising unemployment, a poor living condition. They also want change. The question now is whether or not these protests will be successful or whether calls for peaceful dialogue and negotiations will come out on top. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Nada Bashir bringing us the very latest on the situation in Iraq. Many thanks.

Still to come, with fires raging across Europe, some beekeepers in Greece fear the flames could affect their livelihoods as they tear through vital pine trees.

We'll have the details for you just ahead.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The CNN weather watch is an association with visit Maldives. Here's what's happening across the United States. Big time heat and across a large area of the south- central United States 10, where it's not hot, quite a bit of activity here in the past several days when it comes to severe weather.

Look at the Midwestern United States, some heavy rainfall in the past couple of days across portions of the Great Lakes, certainly included areas of Chicago as well. And look at the severe wind reports exceeding 600 over the weekend, largely across the Midwest on into parts of the Northeast. And even about a dozen tornado reports to be had as well across this region of the U.S.

And notice, that is a level two, a slight risk, but for a densely populated area from Washington to Philly, New York, and Boston, where afternoon storms could prompt some severe weather. And it is plenty hot here before that front arrives.

Heat indices across some of these areas climbing above 40 degrees and. Into areas of the plains and as the south-central United States, as hot as 43 to 44 degrees, yet again here dangerously hot weather. And even the Pacific northwest that has really stave off much of what a lot of the people across the U.S. have been dealing with now tapping into some big-time heat over the next several days.

Vancouver, B.C., 26 degrees, pretty hot for their standards. Twenty- five in Chicago, Winnipeg at 27 degrees. And you'll notice in New York City begin to see a cooling trend here, at least for a couple of days, and eventually another warming trend by late this weekend.


CHURCH: You are looking at a fire burning on the west coast of Portugal. Authorities were forced to block several roads and evacuate a care home. A witness said the smoke was visible from Lisbon about 40 kilometers away. More than 1,000 firefighters are currently mobilized across Portugal.


Meanwhile, in Italy, firefighters continue battling blazers across the country. Italy is in the middle of its worst drought in 70 years. Wildfires have also been raging in parts of Greece in recent weeks, the blazes have destroyed homes and burned through forests and sparked fears that the flames could affect the country's B population.

CNN's Eleni Giokos explains why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These honey bees produce delicious pine honey, a traditional and popular treat in Greece and an important export. And these bees require thriving pine forests to do so. But wildfires are wiping out not only the trees, but the beehives as well.

Last year, wildfire in Athens destroyed 250 beehives belonging to this beekeeper. The loss still haunts him.

SIDERIS TSIMINIS, HONEY PRODUCER (through translator): It is a really awful thing to be afraid to enter the forest, the few forests that exist, but you are afraid of losing even more of your wealth and ending up with nothing.

GIOKOS: Unfortunately, wildfires are burning again this year, and they're becoming more common due to climate change.

CHRISTOS ZEREFOS, CLIMATE EXPERT: Large phenomena like the heat waves or like extreme weather, lightning and other --and wildfires in the forest of Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean. We know the cost. And the costs are very high.

GIOKOS: In the last year Greece has dramatically boosted spending to fight and prepare for wildfires from some $20 million to more than $122 million. Greece is also debuting the European Union's prepositioning project, where firefighters from other E.U. member states are stationed in Greece to respond quickly to the fires and to provide much needed relief to the Greek firefighters.

KOSTAS ZINELIS, FIREFIGHTER (through translator): The extreme weather phenomena unfortunately put a strain on Greek firefighters as the working hours in the field increase. They have to be an alert all the time.

GIOKOS: And as the firefighters battle the fires, they help preserve the pine forest and the bees, and the bees then help rebuild the forest.

TSIMINIS (through translator): It will take many years for it to go back to the way it was, but it is essential for the bee to be there because it helps the burned forest to be reborn.

GIOKOS: Eleni Giokos, CNN.


CHURCH: And still to come, remembering the lives of NBA legend, Bill Russell and actress Nichelle Nichols. More on their impact on the U.S. and the world when we return.



CHURCH: The world is mourning the loss of two stars, NBA legend Bill Russell and actress Nichelle Nichols. They were both known for being game changers in their respective industries, creating opportunities for African Americans as a lasting legacy.

Throughout her career Nichelle Nichols broke barriers and erased stereotypes. That glowing praise coming from no less than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself

CNN's Jason Carroll has more now on her remarkable life.


NICHELLE NICHOLS, ACTRESS: Security sweeps of all decks are negative. Mr. Spa.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Before Nichelle Nichols broke barriers on board the USS enterprise as Lieutenant Uhura, she was dancing and singing her way across the stages of New York City and Chicago, the city close to where she grew up, Robins, Illinois. In 1967, she released a cover of the Joe McCoy classic, why don't you write on Epic Records.

But it was playing "Star Trek's" Lieutenant Uhura where she really found fame. It was a groundbreaking role for an African American woman in 1966, widely considered one of the first times a woman of color was not portraying a servant on TV.

Uhura was the chief communications officer and fourth in command onboard the enterprise.

NICHOLS: I didn't find out that it was fourth in command till the second season. Nobody told me.

CARROLL: Nichols actually thought about leaving after the first season, the show's creator Gene Roddenberry begged her to stay, but it was an influential fan that finally convinced her, Martin Luther King.

NICHOLS: He said you can't. Don't you know who you are to our movement to everyone who's you are there in the 23rd century. You've created a role that has such dignity and everything. It's powerful. You cannot leave.

CARROLL: Another landmark for the show during the turbulence 60s, the first scripted interracial kiss on national television in 1968.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR, STAR TREK: We had heard rumors that the southern stations, some Southern stations might -- might cut it down.

NICHOLS: It changed television forever, and it also changed the way people looked at one another. If they, their faith two of their favorite actors can battle through it and come through it on top, why can't everybody.

CARROLL: The show ended in 1969, but endured for years in syndication and at conventions attended by devoted Trekies. In 1994, Nichols published her autobiography beyond Uhura, "Star Trek" and other memories. Nichols also starred in several Trek movies and even worked with NASA to increase diversity in the space program.

NICHOLS: I had the privilege of recruiting the first women in minority astronauts for the space shuttle program.


CARROLL: Nichols' enduring beauty, her strength of character, her commitment to human rights will always inspire.



CHURCH: And basketball player, coach and activist Bill Russell died peacefully on Sunday according through a family statement. He won 11 championships with the Boston Celtics. Was a five-time NBA MVP, a 12- time, all-star Olympic gold medalist, NBA hall of Famer and the first Black head coach to win an NBA championship.

Russell also made an impact off the court as a civil rights activist. He joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the historic March on Washington and returned for the 50th anniversary.


BILL RUSSELL, FORMER BASKETBALL PLAYER, BOSTON CELTICS: What I'm here to join you and to implore you. The fight had just begun and we can never accept the status quo until the word progress is taken out of our vocabulary. Progress can only be measured how far we have to go.


CHURCH: Russell was also recognized for his efforts by then President Barack Obama who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Bill Russell, the man is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. He marched with King. He stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the team -- teammates, who he loved better players and made possible the success of so many who would follow him.


CHURCH: The Celtics posted this tribute on Twitter to be the greatest champion in your sport to revolutionize the way the game is played and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was.

And thank you for spending part of your day with me. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN Newsroom continues with Max Foster, next.