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Air Quality Plummets as Smoke Blankets East Coast; Dan Westervelt is Interviewed about the Air Quality Issues. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 06:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Pope Francis is recovering in a hospital this morning in Rome after undergoing surgery. A doctor involved in the procedure says they removed scar tissue and repaired a hernia in the pope's abdominal wall. He says the pontiff is doing well, already working and already cracking jokes. Now, Pope Francis, who is 86, is set to stay in the hospital for several days and the Vatican has canceled all his papal audiences through next Sunday. In March the pope was hospitalized and diagnosed with bronchitis. And late last month a fever forced him to cancel several work commitments. A Vatican spokesperson says he's expected to make a full functional recovery from his surgery.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So glad to hear that.

A live look at Capitol Hill this morning where House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has canceled votes for the rest of the week after a rebellion from within his own party. A handful of hardline conservatives blocking Republican bills from moving forward at all. They say they're protesting the speaker's handling of the debt ceiling negotiations. After hours of talks yesterday, Speaker McCarthy said it's not clear what the group wants specifically.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): There's numerous different things they're frustrated about. So, we'll listen to them. We'll solve this. Just like every time we go through here, we've got a small majority. There's a little chaos going on. But the focus I always keep is right in front of the windshield of the American public and we're going to work to solve the American public's problems.


HARLOW: So, you are usually there trying to figure out what they all want and how they can all get along. What's going on? Why does this matter so much?

MATTINGLY: This is going to be a 30-minute segment on congressional procedure, which is TV gold. HARLOW: No commercials, guys.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no, this is exactly what everybody wants. But the procedure is what matters here, right? And so, obviously, Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, is coming off a major - you could call it a victory I think to be able to get more than two-thirds of his conference to support that debt ceiling agreement.


MATTINGLY: However, he infuriated some Republicans, the hardline right Republicans. Remember, the 15 votes it took Kevin McCarthy to become speaker -

HARLOW: That he needed.

MATTINGLY: Who, a, believe that promises that were made, not written down, but made during that vote process -

HARLOW: Handshake promises.

MATTINGLY: Handshake promises were broken by the agreement that he reached with President Biden. And there was also some other issues about a single piece of legislation and a Republican and what commitments were remain or what -

HARLOW: With Steve Scalise and the gun (ph).



MATTINGLY: Here's why this matters. So, believe it or not, there are rules in the United States House of Representatives. It doesn't seem that way sometimes. And one of those rules is to govern floor debate, to basically set the framework, to actually vote on legislation you have to vote on the rule first.


Now, it doesn't seem to make any sense, but, trust me, it happens. These rules are considered kind of pro forma. The party in power always votes -- supports the rule - almost always supports the rule, and then that sets the framework. If people want to vote against the underlying legislation, that's totally fine.

HARLOW: They can.

MATTINGLY: Rules don't fail. Majorities don't lose rule votes.

HARLOW: Except they just did.

MATTINGLY: They just did. For the first time since 2002. So, for procedural merits, this is like a huge moment. This is a big deal.

What it really is, is about a dozen conservatives showing that they have, in a very slim majority, real mechanisms to put new pressure on Speaker McCarthy. They're not calling for his ouster. They're not moving to try and push a motion to vacate. So, they're going maybe a little bit level below that. But they have frozen the entire House floor.

The bills they were supposed to vote on, all part of the Republican agenda. All thing they wants to vote for.

HARLOW: I was just going to say, it stands in the way of what they want.


HARLOW: But they're sending a clear message.

MATTINGLY: So, how does this end? We don't know yet. But what it shows, and what they're trying to show, they have power. They can shut everything down. They're not moving to remove Kevin McCarthy, but he needs to find a resolution to this fast.

HARLOW: They're flexing their muscles, as one would say.

MATTINGLY: Flexing a little bit. Yes. Yes, flexing.

HARLOW: Thanks for the wonk. We appreciate it.

Live pictures out of Philadelphia this morning where the air quality there is terrible. It's currently labelled hazardous. Our Danny Freedman is outside in Philly this morning with a mask, as so many people are this morning.

Good morning.


I'm Danny Freeman. And coming up on CNN THIS MORNING, I'm just outside of Philadelphia and I'm going to tell you how the city of brotherly love is dealing with these unhealthy, smokey conditions.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what my view from Jersey City normally looks like looking over Manhattan, compared to today.


MATTINGLY: You're looking at the view from New Jersey as smoke from raging Canadian wildfires affects more than 75 million people in more than a dozen states, from the Midwest, to the northeast, to the southeast. New York City right now has the worst air quality in the world. This orange haze blanketed the city throughout Wednesday. Now, look at this time lapse from the World Trade Center. It shows

just how conditions worsened over a matter of hours. Schools suspended outdoor activities. The Yankees among several pro sports teams that postponed games. Air travel also disrupted. Some hospitals reporting an increase in respiratory issues.

CNN's Danny Freeman is live right outside Philadelphia.

And, Danny, you've been on this story. What's it look like today? What are we expecting going forward?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil, to put it bluntly, it looks pretty bad I should say. We're in Camden look across the Delaware at what is normally a very beautiful Philadelphia skyline. You can really see nothing over my right shoulder right now, but vaguely you should be able to see city hall, the Comcast build, but pretty much nothing. And, of course, the Ben Franklin Bridge over my left side.

Listen, conditions, Phil, overnight into this morning still at the very hazardous level. But at the moment, the city is in that code red status right now. That means, you know, outdoor events, they're expected to be limited. Masks are recommended for everyone. And I and other people in Philadelphia, we've been closing our doors and windows just to try to keep that smoke and smokey smell out of our homes.

The Philadelphia School District, they actually put out a press release in the past 30 minutes or so saying classes are still on. They're expecting the level to be downgraded to a code orange. So, that means that students will still be primarily inside. Windows will be shut at schools. But they're hoping that as the day goes on the smoke will dissipate.

I actually had a chance to speak with Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro yesterday about this air quality issue. He said the worst was expected overnight into this morning.

Take a listen to his advice for Pennsylvanians.


GOV. JOSH SHAPIRO (D-PA): We want to encourage people just to be safe. I'll give you a pretty simple example. I was getting ready to go out for a run this morning. Rather than going outside and doing that, and I don't have asthma or any other issues like that, I worked out in the house.

So, just want to kind of encourage people to be vigilant. If you do have acute health issues, be really mindful of your time outside, and hopefully this will pass very soon.


FREEMAN: Now, Phil, you said last night the Yankees game was canceled. Here in Philadelphia, Phillies versus Tigers, that was postponed to tonight as well. Everyone hoping that we can play ball this evening, but only if this weather improves.


MATTINGLY: Danny, great reporting, as always. Thank you.

HARLOW: Let's bring in Dan Westervelt. He is a climate change and atmospheric scientist with Colombia University. He's also an expert on air pollution and an adviser to the State Department.

Good morning.


HARLOW: We were all stunned, remain stunned. You are not. Why?

WESTERVELT: Well, I think with increasing climate change and increasing warming, we can expect more and more of these kind of wildfires to continue. And so while I think that the phenomenon happening here in New York is a little bit surprising, overall this wildfire contribution to air quality in the U.S. is something that we'll see more of in the future.

HARLOW: We heard of one of our colleagues say earlier this hour this - our Derek Van Dam -


HARLOW: This could happen much more this summer. Should we buckle up? Like, are we going to have to keep our kids inside, not go to summer camp some days?

WESTERVELT: Yes, I wouldn't really go that far. I think that the point is, is that we're very early in the fire season. It goes all the way to September.


WESTERVELT: So, there could be more of these this year, but I wouldn't quite go that far.


MATTINGLY: I think one of the fascinating things about this moment, it's convergence of several factors, right? Obviously it's the wildfires, I think it's the weather, low pressure systems that I, frankly, don't understand. But I understand there's several pieces of this.

But this is something that happens fairly regularly out west. This is something I've seen in traveling with President Biden. He's gone out to several disaster areas.

Connect it to climate -- it's easy to say, well, this is climate change. This is part -- why? Tell me why this is.

WESTERVELT: That's a great question, thank you.

So, there's a couple of factors. But the most clear one is that global warming, climate change, leads to symptoms that make wildfires worse. And these symptoms include things like hotter temperatures, drier conditions, worsening drought, changing precipitation patterns. All of these things lead to increased wildfires and frequency and also in the amount of area burned, which is just fuel for more of these air quality issues.

HARLOW: Can this be reversed?

WESTERVELT: Well, the best we can do right now is to lower our exposure to what's being done out - what's -- what is out there. And so this is why people are warned to stay inside and wear masks and things like that. In terms of climate, it's not too late to act on climate change. So, yes, this -- this could be slowed.


MATTINGLY: On the actual kind of tangible effect of this right now, if you're in one of these cities, as you're walking around.


Yesterday I was outside just staring up and thankful to an individual, a New Yorker, who looked at me and said, bro, go inside. Which was good advice. But should you be wearing masks right now? What is happening to a person walking outside, or their children walking outside right now?

WESTERVELT: Yes, I mean, waking up today we are seeing pretty much similar levels of air pollution as we saw yesterday where it was really bad. So, we're in the unhealthy range for all adults.

So at this point today, I think, yes, it's a good idea to wear masks it's you have to be outside for a prolonged period of time.

HARLOW: Thank you very much for your expertise.

MATTINGLY: We appreciate it. Thank you.

HARLOW: That's really, really helpful. Answers a lot of questions people have.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Next, a CNN exclusive. Hear from the woman who spent more than six hours trapped under that rubble in that Davenport, Iowa, building that collapsed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like imagine hearing a building get tore down or something like that if you're standing outside and just hearing all the -- that's how it sounded when - when it just -- everything just fell. Everything just fell. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you fell.




HARLOW: Now to a CNN exclusive.

A woman in Iowa, who was trapped under her collapsed apartment building for hours, says she did not hesitate when first responders said they needed to amputate her leg on site. Quanishia Berry is speaking out for the first time since that building collapsed two weeks ago.

MATTINGLY: She and her wife are now suing the city of Davenport and the building's owner. They're accusing them of negligence, citing a city inspection that found the building was not up to code.

Here's CNN's Omar Jimenez.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You don't see yourself as a victim?

QUANISHIA "PEACH" WHITE-BERRY, APARTMENT COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: No. I'm a survivor. I fought my way, like - like hell to get through that day.

JIMENEZ: What were you doing that day when all of a sudden -- I mean everything changed?

WHITE-BERRY: It was a normal day for us. It was like a crack in the window. Then it continued within the same minutes. We seen another one. And I'm like, oh, um, maybe something is - is a little -- I'm - I'm a little nervous. I got a little nervous. I said, something's wrong.

LEXUS BERRY, APARTMENT COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: We both were at the door. We each had a cat in our hands. And I reached to grab the door.

WHITE-BERRY: Like imagine hearing a building get torn down. That's how it sounded when - when it just -- everything just fell.


Everything just fell. And I fell.

JIMENEZ (voice over): While help got to the scene quickly, they couldn't get Peach out for at least six hours.

JIMENEZ (on camera): What were you thinking when all of a sudden, I mean, hours were going by and you still were trapped?

WHITE-BERRY: I have to make it. For her especially. I have to survive this. I have to be able to tell this story. I got these metal pipes of water, gallons of water, just pouring on

me. I'm just soaking wet with metal pieces everywhere. And I was taking pieces of the floor, anything I could find around me, like, covering my head so that I didn't drown.

In my mind I'm just like, how could I be trapped under so much? They were digging me out for hours and hours and hours, to the point where they had to cut my foot on the scene.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Her doctor says he amputated her leg on the scene.

WHITE-BERRY: There was nothing to think about. I wanted to live. I didn't want to be trapped. I didn't want to be -- I didn't want more debris to fall on me, because it was already hard enough. And, to be honest, I didn't want the firefighters to have to be trapped or beaten down or bruised with anything. Like, I - I wanted everyone to make it out of there alive. And with no hesitation, amputate what you have to do -- do what you have to do to get me out of here.

JIMENEZ (on camera): What do you think when you - when you look down there?


JIMENEZ (voice over): On the scene, a red dress marks where their apartment once stood. An apartment build where just days before the collapse inspectors noticed a brick surface had separated from an interior wall and appeared ready to fall imminently according to a letter addressed to whom it may concern from an engineer dated May 24th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know how they knew about it? They were told. Time and time again.

JIMENEZ: It's why Peach and Lexus Berry are suing, alleging the warning signs were known much earlier than a few days prior.

ANDREW M. STROTH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ACTION INJURY LAW GROUP: The family wants the owners of the building, the engineers, the contractors, held responsible for this tragic and 100 percent preventable event.

JIMENEZ: But not everything can be recovered in a courtroom.

WHITE-BERRY: When I close my eyes, I was just -- I heard the cracking again. I heard the falling, the dropping again. It's like, it's going to happen again. Like, am I safe in the building I'm in?

JIMENEZ (on camera): What did this take from you?

WHITE-BERRY: I don't think it really took anything from me because you can't take my peace. You can't take my hope. You can't take my power. This is just another stepping stone to my story.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JIMENEZ: Her attitude and strength are just incredible.

Her doctor told me that he had to amputate her leg on site because it had become a life and death decision as she started to become unresponsive after being trapped under there for so long.

Now, a spokesperson for an owner of the building told me that their hearts go out to everyone displaced and, of course, those who were killed as they try to wrap their head around the building issues. And the city said they couldn't comment on pending litigation. But this is now the second lawsuit to be filed against people that are tied to this building and, of course, at least for Peach, she feels like this is not going to slow her down.

HARLOW: Yes. Just amazing perspective she has.

Omar, thank you so much for that reporting.

MATTINGLY: Well, right now, here's a live look at Washington, D.C., where the air quality is currently labelled very unhealthy. Seventy- five million people across parts of the U.S. are under air quality alerts because of that smoke from Canadian wildfires. Our Brian Todd is standing by live in Washington.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Phil, if people in the D.C. area thought it was bad yesterday, they need to brace themselves. It is worse this morning, and it's getting worse later on today. What does the code red air quality alert mean and what are officials warning people? We'll tell you all about that just ahead.



MATTINGLY: Well, the Denver Nuggets taking the lead in the NBA finals with a big win over the Miami Heat last night on Miami's home court. The Nuggets now just two games away from clinching their first ever NBA championship. Per unusual, Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic led the team to victory last night, scoring more than 30 points each. But the first two quarters, they were tight. The Nuggets led by just five at the half. In the third quarter, they pulled away, taking a nearly 20 point lead at one point. Twenty-two-year-old rookie Christian Brawn helping him get there at a whopping 15 points during the game. Miami clawed back to a nine-point deficit, but was never really able to close the gap. Final score, 109-94. Nuggets now up 2-1 in the series. After the game, Miami's star and leading scorer looked ahead to game four.


JIMMY BUTLER, MIAMI HEAT SMALL FORWARD: I felt like we just got to come out with more energy and effort. And that's correctible. That's on us as a - as a group.


MATTINGLY: Should probably listen to Jimmy Butler. Tomorrow night they're set to face off again for game four in Miami.

Poppy, I got Jokic's name right, FYI.

HARLOW: Yes. We are progressing on this program.

Arguably the greatest soccer player of all time -- is this true, greatest, GOAT?


HARLOW: OK. Fact checked. All time. He's taking his talents so south Florida. Lionel Messi says he is to join the Inter Miami of the MLS. The 35-year-old led Argentina, of course, to that World Cup victory in December. Never forget that match, by the way. It's not clear yet when Messi will debut for Inter Miami, but demand for tickets already skyrocketing. The get in price for the team's game on July 21st soared from $29 on Tuesday to $477 on the secondary market after Messi's announcement. How many -- the math -- what is the math on that?

MATTINGLY: It's a lot.

HARLOW: It's a lot of - many, many times.

MATTINGLY: There's - there's more dollars added to it. But it makes sense. Like, he's amazing.

HARLOW: He's amazing.

MATTINGLY: He's once in a lifetime. He's not washed out or just ending his career in the MLS, like foreign guys often do. He's coming - he's still the best in the world.


MATTINGLY: We should do the next hour on the show just highlights of Messi.

HARLOW: Yes, because there's no other news going on.

MATTINGLY: No, actually, there's a ton of news going on.

HARLOW: Ton of news going on.

MATTINGLY: Can we focus on that? Let's do that. Let's do that.

HARLOW: That's why CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: New York City had the worst air quality of any major city in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The worst air quality over 20 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It felt like being on Mars and it smelled like being in a sauna. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could feel it in the back of your throat. You

could taste it here as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the result of a climate crisis in a connected world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former President Donald Trump has been informed that he is the target of a federal investigation.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: This could mean that the special counsel's investigation is moving closer to a possible indictment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jack Smith seems to be moving at a very fast time line. He understands the political pressures.