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President Biden Calls for Griner's Release; China Fires Missiles Over Taiwan; Russia's War on Ukraine Continues; Extreme Weather Condition Hits Europe; Extreme Weather Condition Hits United States ;U.S. Conservatives Cheer Speech By Hungarian Leader; Jury Order Right-Wing Conspiracy Theorist To Pay $4.1M; Nearly 27,000 Confirmed Monkeypox Cases Worldwide. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired August 05, 2022 - 02:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Lynda Kinkade.

Ahead on "CNN Newsroom," nine years, basketball star Brittney Griner sentenced to serve that time in a Russian penal colony. Now, the U.S. president is calling for her immediate release.

China escalating its military might in response to Nancy Pelosi's visit, now firing missiles over Taiwan for the first time.

And Hungary's prime minister visiting the U.S. not to meet with President Biden but bring his national message to a convention of conservatives.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is "CNN Newsroom" with Lynda Kinkade.

KINKADE: U.S. President Joe Biden is vowing to work tirelessly to bring American basketball star Brittney Griner back home after a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in jail. That is close to the maximum possible penalty. She was found guilty of deliberately smuggling drugs into Russia despite apologizing and pleading for leniency.


BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA STAR: I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent, I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime. I want to apologize to my teammates and organization UMMC (ph) for any damage that I may have done to them. I never intended on hurting them. This is my second home, and all I want to do is just win championships and make them proud.


KINKADE: Well, her defense team says it will file an appeal, calling this sentence absolutely unreasonable.


MARIA BLAGOVOLINA, BRITTNEY GRINER'S LAWYER: She is very upset -- very upset, very stressed. And she is -- well, she can hardly talk, honestly. So, it is difficult time for her.


KINKADE: The U.S. considers Griner and Paul Whelan, another American held by the Russians to be wrongfully detained. It is encouraging Moscow to agree to a prisoner swap to secure their freedom.

Our correspondent, Nina dos Santos, is tracking developments for us from London and joins us live. Good to have you with us, Nina. So, did the court take into account her guilty plea and the amount of cannabis, and how much time does her team have to appeal this verdict?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Lynda, yes, the court did say that they took into account the time that she has already served behind bars, about 169 days so far since her arrest in February of this year. And also, that message that you heard, very heartfully delivered, saying that she had not intended to take this amount of cannabis oil into Russia in the first place. She did not use it there, her defense team says, an amount that was less than one gram that was inside these vape canisters.

She said she accidentally left it in her baggage because she packed quickly to go and play a match inside Russia, in the city of Yekaterinburg. She, by the way, apologized to Yekaterinburg City, to her teammates, to her family, and also pleaded with the judge to say, please, do not let my life end here in this country and behind these bars.

But there has been some consternation expressed by her solicitors. You can see there her lawyers are giving an impromptu press conference to reporters outside the court room, saying that normally, the type of sentencing for this crime is about five years, and about a third of people who are given a sentence for carrying cannabis oil or similar sort of substances are given parole. So, this is viewed as a very punitive sentence.

The judge saying that she commuted it slightly to take into account that -- the fact that Brittney Griner have been behind bars for about six months already. But the U.S. position, of course, still remains at the highest political (INAUDIBLE) that Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan are U.S. citizens who are wrongfully being detained in Russia now.

What happens next? The defense team of Brittney Griner says that they have 10 days to appeal. They will be appealing, they say, so you can expect a lot more back and forth in the next 10 days to come.


DOS SANTOS: And, of course, the question now for the U.S. and also for the Russian side is, with this sentence having now been handed down, does this open a way for a prisoner swap, essentially, to deal with this on a political level, not a judiciary one, now that that part of this chapter is over?

KINKADE: All right, Nina dos Santos for us from London, thanks to you.


KINKADE: Well, Brittney Griner's fate weighted heavily on her teammates in the U.S. during a Phoenix Mercury game Thursday night. Here's how one of them reacted to the verdict.



UNKNOWN: It's devastating.

DESHIELDS: Yeah, you can't really say anything other than that. I know, personally, I'm just very proud to be a part of this group and to watch the way that they showed up, they came out and played. We approach the game tonight with a heavy heart as we have every day in the season. But, obviously, devastating is the overall sentiment.


KINKADE: Just one day after China fired ballistic missiles over Taiwan for the first time, Taipei is reporting new activity by Chinese fighter jets and warships the Taiwan Strait. The military might came after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which Beijing strongly condemned.

In Tokyo, Pelosi met with Japan's prime minister, made it clear that the U.S. will not allow China to isolate Taiwan. The Japanese leader called for an immediate end to China's military exercises. But still, some missiles land near Japan, inside the country's exclusive economic zone.

The White House is warning of more provocative actions from China.


JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker's visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait. We anticipated that China might take steps like this. We also expect that these actions will continue.


KINKADE: I want to go to Beijing and CNN's Steven Jiang joins us live. Steven, how unusual are these missile strikes by China in the sea near Taiwan?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Lynda, you know, the Chinese military and state media here obviously describing them as unprecedented in terms of their proximity to Taiwan.

If you look the map of their (INAUDIBLE), some of them actually within Taiwan's territorial waters, meaning some 10 miles away from the island shorelines. And, of course, they are also trying to highlight their scale and intensity. Now, you mentioned part of that includes firing of multiple missiles, some of them fly directly above Taiwan (INAUDIBLE) to waters that are considered Japan's EEZ.

But also, that includes the deployment of drones to fly them over Taiwan's outline islands and also hundreds of warplanes to really cross the so-called median line in the strait, not to mention state media mentioning the participation of the nuclear submarines as part of these military drills as well.

So, all of this fire and fury, if you will, and the shock and awe are not just military actions in a way. They are also what really partly designed as Beijing -- as part of Beijing's psychological and information warfare directed not only at Taiwan and the U.S. but very much at their domestic audience whose nationalistic fervor, of course, have been stoked for days by their state media and officials.

The message is clear, that is the PLA, the People's Liberation Army, is in total control of the region, of the situation. So, the so-called reunification with Taiwan is not a matter of if, but when.

So, the worry and the concern right now, of course, this is just not going to be a few days of PLA drones and everything goes back to normal because the PLA could very much try to seize upon the moment to change the status quo by, for example, enforcing China's sovereign claim over the entire Taiwan Strait.

Now, that could pose major challenges to the U.S. and its allies that routinely send warships and warplanes to cross the strait, as you just heard from John Kirby. So, that is really the -- why the situation is still uncertain and precarious. Linda?

KINKADE: All right, Steven Jiang for us in Beijing, thanks very much.

For more, let's bring in CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He is the White House national security correspondent for "The New York Times." He joins us now from Washington D.C. Good to have you with us, David.


KINKADE: So, let's start with Brittney Griner. The prosecution wanted 9.5 years. She got nine years. Nine years for carrying a small amount of cannabis, less than one gram of cannabis oil. The U.S. basketball star pleading guilty, claimed she had a prescription for it. Is she a political pawn?

SANGER: Well, certainly, she is a political pawn. You can tell that by the very negotiation of her release. This is a case of what the State Department refers to as an unlawful detainee. That is to say that a case has been concocted against them.


SANGER: This will be at most a misdemeanor, but in most parts of the United States, no crime at all. As you say, the amount is tiny and it may have been for medical purposes.

So, what is this all about? This is about, obviously, reaction to Ukraine, but also about the Russian desperation to go create some pawns that will enable them to get back some significant prisoners in the United States. Now, it looks like the one that they really want back and wanted back for years is Viktor Bout, the former arms dealer to many terror groups who Vladimir Putin has often asked to be returned to Russia. He has been in jail in the United States for about a decade.

KINKADE: Yeah. I want to ask you more about those negotiations, David, because according to a CNN report, the U.S. did offer, as you say, Viktor Bout, Russia's most well-known prisoner in the U.S. and a former arms dealer, in exchange for both Griner and the other U.S. citizen, Paul Whelan.

SANGER: Uh-hmm.

KINKADE: That deal rejected. Russia wants more, reportedly, a former Russian spy who's currently in German custody, convicted of murder. Do you see that happening?

SANGER: A couple of complications in this. First, the Russians don't want to give up two Americans in return for one Russian even though the crimes for which Viktor Bout has been convicted are way, way out of proportion for anything that we are discussing with the Griner or Whelan cases.

Second, the German prisoner is a Russian spy. Frequently, there are spy for spy handoffs but usually that is when there is one country involved. Here, we have to bring Germany into it, convince the Germans to give him up, and in return, the Germans wouldn't get anything of their own. They would be basically doing one for the United States. So, it is not clear. It is actually within President Biden's ability to give that.

KINKADE: Yeah. It's interesting. The negotiations now potentially between the three countries. I'm wondering, David, what will happen to Griner, given that Whelan has already been in prison for years after being arrested in 2018, accused of spying. And does Russia want this sort of publicity? What is the calculation here?

SANGER: You know, I'm not sure that this sort of publicity is hurting them and hurting Vladimir Putin at home the way we would think of this. When we look at this, we say, these are two completely unjustified detentions, doesn't look like Paul Whelan is a spy, and we have already discussed what a minor violation, if it was a violation at all, that Griner is accused of here.

But what is clearly going on is that the Russians are seeing this in old, cold war terms, back in the days when we did exchange spies for spies, although in this case, they are grabbing people who are really not accused in a serious way of spying on behalf of the United States.

So, I think this is likely to grind on for some time. It is possible that they may in the end simply decide that getting Viktor Bout out is enough, but it doesn't look like they are there yet.

KINKADE: Right. And if we can, David, I want to pivot to China. China, of course, reportedly firing live missiles into the sea near Taiwan in response to the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit. What is China's objective here?

SANGER: Well, there are a couple. First of all, there are five or six areas around Taiwan that the Chinese have declared are closed off while they conduct live fire exercises. I think part of what they're trying to show is that they can encircle the entire island, and that if they wanted to at any point in the future, they could blockade the entire island, that this is sort of address rehearsal for that.

Of the 11 missiles they fired, five of them went into Japan's -- what Japan calls its exclusive economic zone. Taiwan and China also claimed parts of these areas or at least reserved claims for parts of those areas. But I think what that was really about was signaling to the United States, hey, we can control the Taiwan Strait, we can control the southern part of the island, and we can aim missiles as well at the U.S. base in Okinawa.

KINKADE: And the U.S., of course, has condemned it.


KINKADE: But I am wondering, David, will we see any more from the U.S. or Taiwan in terms of a more forthright response?

SANGER: Well, I don't think the Chinese action over Taiwan is over yet. At a minimum, it would run through weekend. But I've talked to a lot of people in the administration who believe that, in fact, we will now see a heightened level of activity against Taiwan on a relatively permanent basis. So, we are going to be on edge for a while.

President Biden is in a little bit of a bind here. He does not want to appear to be escalating this in any way, and yet he also doesn't want to back off in his presidency.

KINKADE: We will watch this closely. David Sanger, as always, thanks for joining us.

SANGER: Thank you. Great to be with you.

KINKADE: A buildup of Russian troops is underway in Southern Ukraine. That is from Ukrainian officials who say Moscow is likely preparing to mount a counteroffensive.

The buildup concentrated in Kherson and part of Zaporizhia. Ukraine has slowly gained ground in the south. And in the east, pro-Russian separatists say five people were killed when Ukrainians shelled the city of Donetsk on Thursday. Ukraine says a Russian strike on another town held by Ukrainians left eight people dead.

And down on the Black Sea, three more grain ships are expected to leave Ukrainian ports in the coming hours. An agreement signed last month allows Ukraine to resume grain exports which could ease global food shortages.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians pushing back against a new report by Amnesty International about the conduct of Ukrainian forces.

Jason Carroll reports from Kyiv.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, continued intense fighting of both the east and the south here in Ukraine. This as Amnesty International weighing in on the conflict, accusing Ukrainians of using tactics that they say puts Ukrainian civilians at risk.

According to the organization, they say that there were observers who went out there and found that the military bases, in some cases, were set up in areas that are close to both hospitals and sometimes close to schools.

Representatives for the Ukrainian government strongly denying those allegations laid out in the report, saying in part -- quote -- that "Ukraine strictly adherers to all laws of warfare and humanitarian law."

Also, an update on the bombing of the prison last week where more than 50 Ukrainian POWs were killed. According to the White House, the White House says that Russia is preparing to falsify evidence and documents in order to lay blame for that bombing at the foot of the Ukrainians, saying that the Russians are planning to put forth some sort of evidence, false evidence, showing that Ukrainians were using rocket to air missiles to carry out that attack.

The Ukrainians strongly denying, of course, that they had any involvement in all this and very early on saying that that attack was actually carried out by Russian mercenaries. Ukrainian officials have also called on both the Red Cross and the United Nations to investigate.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Kyiv.


KINKADE: Police in Thailand saying at least 13 people have been killed and 35 injured in a nightclub fire. It happened at 1:00 in the morning in a town about 170 kilometers south of Bangkok. Officials say the injuries range from mild to serious and are mainly from burns. Police are still looking into what caused the fire.

Much of Europe is suffering under yet another heat wave. We are going to get the details and the high temperatures from the CNN Weather Center when we return. Plus, a similar scene across the U.S. Millions of Americans are experiencing dangerously hot temperatures. Stay with us. You are watching CNN.




KINKADE: Welcome back. Well, from Spain in the west to Albania in the east, Europe is once again seeing scorching high temperatures and the dry conditions are sparking wildfire in multiple countries.

Our Jennifer Gray reports.


JENNIFER GRAY, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Much of Europe is baking under yet another round of scorching heat. This comes after a record-breaking heat wave moved to the region last month. France is seeing its third heat wave this summer. Nearly all areas of the country have water restrictions in place. France has been under drought conditions since July, and so far, forecasters say, there is no end in sight.

FLORIAN HORTOLA, WEATHER FORECASTER, METEO FRANCE (through translator): We have classic meteorological situation, that this warming of the atmosphere leads to temperatures which are higher than before. So now, it is very easy to have very high temperatures for several days in a row and thus heat waves. In the coming years and decades, we expect it to get warmer and warmer, and to have even more heat waves for prolonged periods of time.

GRAY: Berlin came within a degree of the highest temperature ever recorded in the city. Animals are trying to cope with the high temperatures, too. At the Frankfort Zoo, aquatic animals are spending much more time in the water.

Spain passed an energy conservation law this week banning offices, restaurants, and other public places from setting their air conditioning to cool below 27 degrees Celsius.

The dry weather has sparking wildfires throughout the region. Europe is only halfway through the fire season and the blazes have already burned the second largest area on record, according to the European Union's research center.

Firefighters battle fires in Northwest Spain. Scorched trees and grassland could be seen in the town of Orense (ph) in the autonomous community of Galicia. Local media reports that the fires were caused by arson.

In Albania, fires are threatening homes and farmland. Villagers assist the firefighters in containing the blaze there. Scientists say heat waves and droughts are expected to become more common and last longer because of the climate crisis. The U.N report found that those droughts will cause an increase in the number of extreme wildfires.

Jennifer Gray, CNN.


KINKADE: Let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Good to see you, Derek. So, the heat having a profound impact on the wildfire season right across Europe.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Lynda, 600,000 hectares have burned so far to date across the European Union. This is according to the E.U. Joint Research Center. That puts it at the second largest burned area across the European Union since records began in 2006.

Just to put this into further context, this is more than two times the size the country of Luxembourg. I mean, that is an incredible amount of burned area that is ongoing across many countries over the European Union.

Here is an example, coming out of Spain, you can see one of the firefighters battling one of the many blazes that occurred there this season. Of course, we are only half way through the burn season which typically lasts right through the month of September.

Now, last summer, 2021, was the hottest record summer in Europe's history. It is possible, and looking more and likely as the days take on, that summer of 2022 could best that and actually be slightly warmer. So, we are getting these consecutive back-to-back extremely hot summers. The duration of heat waves continues to be extended and the frequency of heat waves extended. The fingerprints of climate change written all over this.

We have had temperatures just yesterday running anywhere from 5 to 13 degrees Celsius above average.


VAN DAM: Frankfurt to Marseille, we do have heat alerts in place for many locations. Southern and eastern sections of France, much of central and western Poland, for instance, extreme heat, the risk of dehydration.

And then, who can forget the Mediterranean where the bulk of our wildfires are burning out of control, they Iberian Peninsula in particular.

Look at these temperatures. Cordova, 40 degrees yesterday. Their average temperature, 36. Any time we see that mercury of thermometer climb above a 40-degree mark, we know that spells trouble. The potential for more wildfires exists across that area.

The heat today, really centralized across the Mediterranean areas. We do have a brief break in the extreme heat across Northwestern Europe. So, the U.K. into portions of France, as well as into the Netherlands, but we will start to see some of those reds and oranges peek back into the forecast. Seven-day outlook for Paris shows our temperatures warming into next week. Lynda?

KINKADE: Yeah, tough conditions for firefighters right across Europe. Derek Van Dam, as always, good to see you. Thank you.

A similar story in the U.S., over 100 million Americans have been under heat alert for at least eight of the last 16 days, and high temperatures could soon break records in dozens of cities.

CNN's Tom Foreman reports.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The heat wave that left fatalities and wildfires out west has now crossed the whole country to scorch the east, making millions of Americans swelter along the way and causing dangerously hot conditions in some places.

UNKNOWN: It's hot.

UNKNOWN: It's very warm.

UNKNOWN: Oh, my gosh, I'm dying. I am not used to it at all. It's terrible.

FOREMAN (voice-over): In New York City, a heat index pushing 100 is threatening weather records going back to World War II. In Philadelphia, 104 was the anticipated heat index. In Washington, D.C., an index of 105 appear within reach. And in Kentucky, where folks are trying to recover from flooding, have left dozens dead.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Biggest concern for today and tomorrow is the weather. It is very, very hot.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The temperature has been so brutal. The Teamsters union cited a delivery man collapsing in Arizona last month to say UPS must provide cooling measures or they are sending drivers out to die in the heat. UPS says, the health and safety of our employees is our highest priority. UPS drivers are trained to work outdoors and to manage the effects of hot weather.

But on the backside of the current heat wave, another problem, more massive storms.

UNKNOWN: My home had about two to three foot of water in it.

FOREMAN (voice-over): St. Louis was hammered by 60 mile-an-hour wind gust and up to three inches of rain in an hour, closing roads, flooding homes.

MYA GRAY, FLOOD VICTIM: I woke up, the water was this high. I almost drowned. We had to get out in boats and everything.

FOREMAN (voice-over): In Michigan, tens of thousands lost power as trees were blown down. And those blazes out west?

UNKNOWN: It was crazy. Fire going everywhere. Smoke. They all walked off.

FOREMAN (voice-over): They are still burning. Now, some firefighters fear mudslides, triggered by this summer's ever wilder weather.

(On camera): Some places might get some relief in the coming days, but don't count on it lasting. Forecasters expect more than two-thirds of the country in the coming week to hit 90 degrees or above.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


KINKADE: European leader with close ties to the Kremlin fires up a crowd of American conservatives in Dallas. We'll tell you what Hungary's Viktor Orban had to say after the break.

And a U.S. jury fines against a right-wing conspiracy theorist in a defamation lawsuit over the Sandy Hook shooting. We will find out how much the panel is ordering him to pay.




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, is not a popular man in most of Europe, and he has plenty of critics at home too. The Conservatives in Texas gave him a rock star welcome on Thursday. They cheered over and over even giving him a standing ovation. And it's all been railed against liberal's same-sex marriage, gender identity, and other hot button issues.

For 30 minutes, he attacked Democrats and the news media as Emory -- enemies of democracy and said only a strong leader can ensure national security. Orban considered the most pro-Kremlin of Europe's leaders made the bold pitch to the crowd.


VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: Progressive liberals didn't want me to be here because they knew what I will tell you. Because I'm here to tell you that we should unite our forces because, we, Hungarians know -- because we Hungarians know how to defeat the enemies of freedom on the political battlefield.


KINKADE: Unlike other European leaders, Viktor Orban has a reputation as a staunch nationalist and authoritarian. He is also a loyal ally of Donald Trump. CNN's Ben Wedeman has a report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You could call it a meeting of like minds. Video from his official Facebook page shows Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visiting former President Donald Trump, Tuesday at his Bedminster, New Jersey Golf Club, on his way to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas on Thursday. The hard-right anti-immigrant Prime Minister recently set off alarm bells with his speech laced with sinister undertones.

ORBAN: Speaking in a foreign language.

WEDEMAN: We, Europeans, Orban said, are willing to mix with one another but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race. He has since come out insisting he isn't racist or anti-semitic. The damage, however, is done.

Victor Orban's talk about racial mixing, about racial purity stirs up dark still fresh memories. These metal shoes commemorate the spot where in the final months of World War II, Hungarian Nazis murdered thousands of Jews.

It's time for evening prayer in Budapest's historic Dohany Street Synagogue. Rabbi Robert Frolich says Orban's words hit too close to home.

ROBERT FROLICH, CHIEF RABBI: You saw the small congregation here who come here every evening, every morning to pray. They are older people. Most of them are Holocaust survivors. They are worried. They heard this before. And it didn't end well.

WEDEMAN: Often described as an authoritarian, Orban has been in power for the last 12 years, reelected in April. His economic policies have won him support. But with inflation rising, that's beginning to change says economists Zoltan Pogatsa.

ZOLTAN POGATSA, ECONOMIST: In the longer run, yes, I think Orban remains popular but in this particular point in time, I think more people are skeptical about him than ever before.

WEDEMAN: In Budapest Central Market, opinions vary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be honest, Viktor Orban is not even liked in our own country.

WEDEMAN: Margarita Kreinik, (PH) the butcher, begs to differ.

MARGARITA KREINIK, BUTCHER: Speaking in a foreign language.

WEDEMAN: Viktor Orban is doing everything for his people, she says. He loves his people.

Evening and city residents savor the soft breezes of the Danube. History flows through this city, the past never far from this surface. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Budapest. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: A Texas jury is ordering right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay up. They found the Infowars host liable for defamation, awarding the parents of one of the young victims in the Sandy Hook massacre, $4.1 million in damages. 26 people were killed in the 2012 massacre at their Connecticut elementary school, 20 of those were children. Jones repeatedly claimed that the massacre was staged, encoded as a hoax, but admitted during the trial he now believed it to be 100 percent real. The jury comes back on Friday to deliberate on the punitive damages. Jones faces other similar lawsuits in Connecticut.

Well, as monkeypox spreads around the world, so does the need to make people aware of the dangers. Just ahead. How UK health workers are helping to slow the transmission of the virus, plus, a teenager, looking to make history by conquering the sky, all alone in his single-engine, ultralight plane. We'll hear what the journey means to him right after this short break.


KINKADE: Welcome back. The U.S. is following the lead of the World Health Organization declaring monkeypox a public health emergency. The Biden administration says it will free up funding, expand the ability of health authorities to share data, and increase the number of personnel to help fight the virus. It comes as infection numbers arising in the U.S., there are currently more than 7100 confirmed cases of monkeypox more than in any other country in the world.

Spain, Germany, and the UK are also facing considerable outbreaks and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are almost 27,000 cases worldwide. Health officials said the majority of reported cases are in men who have sex with men, but they caution that anyone can get the disease. Our Salma Abdelaziz spoke with some of the men who are affected.


SILVER STEELE, ADULT FILM ENTERTAINER: Hey guys, day 15 of monkeypox.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voiceover): After adult film entertainer, Silver Steele, tested positive for monkeypox, he started to document his painful struggle from isolation in Texas.

STEELE: I don't want anybody to have to go through this, so if my story will help people possibly change their behaviors or attempt to go get vaccinated, then it'll be worth it.


ABDELAZIZ: It's a trend. Social media is key to raising awareness at ground zero of this health crisis, the gay community. 98 percent of cases so far are among men who have sex with men, according to the World Health Organization. But sex is not required to transmit the virus. It's passed on primarily through close skin-on-skin physical contact.

Do you feel that there is a stigma?

STEELE: 100 percent. First of all, it's easy to label it as a gay disease. But this virus doesn't go, oh, I'm going to find a gay person. Oh, look, here's another gay person. It's just going to find a human.

ABDELAZIZ: From a sexual health clinic in East London, Dr. Iain Reeves says he witnessed the early days of the outbreak.

DR. IAIN REEVES, SEXUAL HEALTH CONSULTANT: To start off with, all of us were in a little bit in the dark, to be honest with you, you know, kind of it's not an infection that I was familiar with at all.

ABDELAZIZ: Now, health care workers are playing catch up trying to vaccinate those most at risk faster than the virus can spread.

Clinics like this one had to react quickly to the outbreak, training their staff, preparing tests, giving out dozens of vaccinations a day. It's put a strain on health services, and there's no sign that demand is letting up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So here's your concern form.

ABDELAZIZ (voiceover): Word of mouth and public messaging are driving more and more to come forward for their shots.

JONNY DILLON, MONKEYPOX VACCINE RECIPIENT: A lot of people are I think taking this seriously and making sure that they're protecting themselves and protecting each other in the rest of the community.

ABDELAZIZ: But monkeypox cases are still on the rise. And with a limited vaccine supply, containment still presents a challenge.

ALIESKY ROMERO, MONKEYPOX VACCINE RECIPIENT: Seen that some friends of mine had it on -- they had it quite bad. So I thought better.

ABDELAZIZ: And healthcare workers are scrambling to access a historically marginalized population.

REEVES: One of the concerns I have is that the people that will get into the vaccine clinics are going to be kind of the best connected. And so that can leave people who, you know, historically, are less well served by health services behind a little bit.

ABDELAZIZ: And that's why alongside public health messaging, grassroots voices are making an impact. So far, more than a million people around the world have viewed Steele's video.

How does that make you feel to know that your message is being heard?

STEELE: I feel fulfilled. That what I'm going through other people are going through isn't for nothing because I'm telling you, you don't want this. It's painful.

ABDELAZIZ: A community, rallying to prevent a new disease from taking hold. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


KINKADE: Well, the British Belgian teenager has his sights set high trying to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. Mack Rutherford has landed his ultralight plane in Anchorage, Alaska early this week. He plans to fly through 52 countries. His sister, Zara, holds the record for women for her solo round-the-world flight at the age of 19.


MACK RUTHERFORD, TEENAGE PILOT: So I started in -- on the 23rd of March in Bulgaria because my main sponsor ICDSoft is based there. From there I flew through Sicily and Crete, then all the way down through Africa. I'm trying to show that young people can make a difference. You don't have to be 18 to do something special. Just work towards your dreams and they'll come true.


KINKADE: And I certainly will. You can learn more about Mack and his team and track his progress live at his website,

Well, thanks so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Lynda Kinkade. Stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" starts after a short break. And I'll be back at the top of the hour with much more news.