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Debate Ending on Judicial Overhaul Plan in Israel's Parliament; One Person Killed, Four Injured in Houston Shooting; Thousands of Tourists Evacuated from Greek Island of Rhodes. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 24, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Christine Romans.

Right now, debate over the first in a package of judicial overhauls is wrapping up as we speak in Israel's parliament. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned to pushing the plan through after a pause earlier this year in the face of widespread huge and frequent protests and a general strike that virtually shut down the country.

And Netanyahu is doing this just out of the hospital, where he was fitted with a pacemaker Sunday morning. CNN Jerusalem correspondent Hadas Gold joins us live this morning. Hadas, what's the current status of these bills? And does it have the votes?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, nonstop news here. Listen, the government has always had the votes for these bills. They have the majority in the Israeli parliament. They can pass it right now as we speak. Now, the vote is expected to happen in the next few hours. Right now, they are wrapping up debate, there will be some closing statements, and then there will be the votes later on now.

What they're voting on is called the unreasonables -- reasonableness in its legislation. What it means is the Israeli Supreme Court can declare a government action should not happen because they decided it's unreasonable.

Now, this legislation would take that power away from the Supreme Court. Opponents of this ability to do so say that the Supreme Court has unlimited power, it's taking the power away from the elected officials, but those who are afraid of the Supreme Court losing this ability fear that this would take away a very important check on government power.

Now, Benjamin Netanyahu, who as you noted, was just released from the hospital after being fitted with a pacemaker, and what seemed to be an emergency operation, has literally gone almost from the hospital straight to the Israeli parliament for these votes. Now, even if this passes, it doesn't necessarily mean it automatically becomes law.

We already know legal challenges are being planned against this, and ironically, those legal challenges will likely end up in front of the Supreme Court. So, if the Supreme Court deems it unreasonable as an action, then you're in a huge political crisis here. Now, as we speak as well, there's the action inside the parliament, outside of the parliament, massive protests, protesters are being hit with water cannons all over the place.

Protesters have completely taken over much of the area around the government buildings here in Jerusalem. They say they will stay there until this overhaul legislation is completely off the table. There are efforts at compromise, the Israeli president saying he's working to talk to both sides. And meanwhile, overnight, we did hear from President Biden who released another statement, the second in just a span of a week, saying that it doesn't make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this.

He says the focus should be on pulling people together and finding a consensus. But so far, it doesn't seem as though, Netanyahu is listening to these pressures. It seems as though, all indications are pointing they're planning to push ahead with this legislation. This will be the first part of this massive judicial overhaul that would actually pass the three votes needed --

ROMANS: Sure --

GOLD: In parliament, and be on its way to becoming law. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Hadas Gold, thank you for that, keep us posted. All right, to the U.S. now, new gun violence over the weekend plaguing the country coast-to-coast. Across Chicago, at least six people were killed, more than 20 injured and at least 20 reported shooting incidents. In New York City, two people killed, several others injured in a series of shootings Saturday night.

Five people were wounded in a shooting at a bar in Tampa, Florida, and in Portland, Oregon, a hospital security officer was killed, another staff member wounded in an attack. Police say the gunman was killed by officers a short time later. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the U.S. has had more than 400 mass shootings this year, it's only July, which means the country is on pace to far surpass the 646 mass shootings last year. CNN's John Laurence has more.


JOHN LAURENCE, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Police say one person is dead and four others are injured after gunfire erupts in Houston early Saturday morning according to CNN affiliate "KTRK".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were out here celebrating a friend's birthday party.

LAURENCE: The victim who was killed, 21-year-old Autumn Vallian, her mother told "KTRK", she was about to leave the event when a fight broke out at Margaret Jenkins Park.

EBONY VALLIAN, AUTUMN VALLIAN'S MOTHER: My daughter came, pulling me, telling me, Mama, let's get away, let's get away. I'm like, come on. And I look back, my bag was down on the ground, gone -- LAURENCE: Vallian was five months pregnant, and her mother said, she

planned to become a teacher.

VALLIAN: She's a very sweet girl. She didn't deserve this. She didn't deserve it.


LAURENCE: In Florida, five people were injured from gunfire at a bar in Tampa, Sunday morning. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister issued a statement that said, quote, "it's disheartening to hear that the lives of so many people were jeopardized because a few people think the way to solve their problems is with violence.

These incidents were among the more than 400 mass shootings reported in 2023, according to the gun violence archive. The GVA and CNN define a mass shooting as an incident where at least four people are injured or killed, not including the shooter. I'm John Laurence reporting.


ROMANS: All right, turning to the war in Ukraine, officials in Kyiv say Russian drones targeted grain infrastructure again overnight in a four-hour attack that destroyed a grain warehouse and injured six people in southern Ukraine. It comes just hours after Russia's defense minister claimed two Ukrainian drones were shot down and crashed before causing any significant damage in Moscow.

Russia is still describing it as a, quote, "terrorist attack". CNN's Clare Sebastian live in London. Clare, what more are we learning about the alleged strikes in Moscow this morning?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Christine, as you say, Russia is claiming to have averted both of those drones using electronic warfare, essentially jamming the signal, forcing them to land and says that they both crashed. One location, it seems particularly significant, very close to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

And in fact, we have geolocated footage which shows damage to a building which houses the Ministry of Defense Military Orchestra, you can see it there, it's not clear whether that damage was caused by a drone, but it certainly seems significant. That complex or that area, also houses what we believe according to many western sources to be a unit of the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence, which conducts foreign hacking activities, including having been assessed to have been affiliated with Fancy Bears, you remember that group, that hacked into the DNC.

So, a significant location there, very central, a second location in the southern part of Moscow, where you saw that high-rise business center according to the mayor that was hit. Take a listen to the experience of a local resident there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was asleep and was woken up by an explosion. Everything started to shake. It felt like the whole building had come down. I looked out of the window. I live in the neighboring building on the side where there's less damage, and it felt strange. The damage was so minor -- well, OK, not minor. Any explosion is scary, but it sounded worse than it looked.

As it seemed, like the whole mall had exploded. After that, I looked online and saw the amount of damage from this side, and we came and had a look from here.


SEBASTIAN: So, this is the fourth time that we've seen Moscow targeted with drones since we first saw those drones flying towards the Kremlin in early May. The war well on treaty on Russian soil, and of course, separately 17 drones, Russia is claiming it averted, trying to attack the Crimean Peninsula, the fifth time that territory has come under attack in a week.

ROMANS: All right, Clare Sebastian, thank you so much. New analysis shows sweltering heat, the kind that we're experiencing right now is sapping U.S. productivity. Researchers estimate the annual cost at about $100 billion over time, researchers suggest rising temperatures could drain one-sixth of global economic activity by the year 2100. CNN's Camila Bernal says the effect is already been felt in California's farming communities.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The shade under the grape vines is deceiving.


BERNAL: "Not enough air and a feeling of suffocation", says 22-year- old Alexandra Corona. She's been working in the fields in the Coachella Valley since she was a teenager, and is one of the more than 2 million agricultural workers in the U.S. But it's impossible to get used to temperatures close to 115 degrees.

LUZ GALLEGOS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TODEC: We understand that's because our environmental impact and the change. But also what that translates to community, is not only working with heat in this high heat conditions, but also out of their pocket. That they have -- many of them have shorter working hours because of the heat conditions.

BERNAL: Already, more than 2,300 heat records have been set in the U.S. in the recent heat waves, causing dozens of deaths and filling some hospitals to pandemic levels. Something Luz Gallegos is trying to prevent. Through the nonprofit she leads, agricultural workers are reminded to drink water, take breaks and speak up. Because no matter how high the temperatures are, the work here continues.

Agriculture is one of the largest industry sectors in California, and the state says its performance is vital to its economic health. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BERNAL: And in turn, provides produce for tables all over the country.


GALLEGOS: They're still working. You know, they're still working because they know that they need to make their end goal to make their money to bring home to pay their rent, to bring -- to make sure their kids are taken care of.

BERNAL: Alexandra agrees. She says there are days when even walking is hard. But she takes the necessary precautions because it's a job she depends on. Camila Bernal, CNN, Coachella Valley, California.


ROMANS: All right, Camila, thanks for that. Just ahead, Texas facing a DOJ deadline over a floating border barrier. Plus, the search for evidence in the Gilgo Beach serial murder goes underground, and an army of toads taking over a Utah roadway.


ROMANS: All right, today is the deadline for Texas officials to enter into negotiations over removing floating barriers meant to deter migrants from crossing the Rio Grande or face possible legal action from the Department of Justice.


On Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted in part, "Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border under the U.S. constitution and the Texas constitution." Let's bring in Lis Wiehl; a former federal prosecutor and author of the book "A Spy in Plain Sight". Lis, I guess, what do you make of Abbott's tweet here, does the DOJ have legal merit to intervene? Does Texas have sovereign authority over its border, I thought immigration was the purview of the U.S. Congress?

LIS WIEHL, AUTHOR & FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Exactly. Texas has sovereign authority until it bumps right into a federal statute which this does, the Rivers and Harbors Act. And the reason for that, Christine, is that, you know, this is the Rio Grande, right? It's not some little trickle of water, it's not the River Pocitos. It's a big river, it's navigable, right? That's a big word for this early in the morning.

But it means that it can be navigated, this river. You know, private businesses are on it, et cetera, wholly apart from asylum seekers. That means that the Rio Grande in my estimation would be held by a federal court to say, hey, federal law applies, which means Abbott, Governor Abbott, you just simply didn't follow the rules. You have to ask the Feds, under this federal statute, to do anything that's going to compromise navigable water. And there are two treaties, U.S. has two treaties with Mexico that

implicates this as well, so it simply didn't follow the correct process. Seems to me it ends there before you even get to policy, but we can talk about that, too.

ROMANS: Well, here's a line from the DOJ letter sent to Governor Abbott last Thursday, it says this. "This floating barrier poses a risk to navigation as well as public safety in the Rio Grande river, and it presents humanitarian concerns." So the DOJ is raising sort of several different possible issues here as possible legal grounds -- possible grounds for legal action.

WIEHL: Well, Christine, that's right. I mean, you want to -- you want to go to a court, saying, look, on two different prongs, both the process we just talked about, it ends there, they just simply didn't follow the rules. If you -- if you get past the process analysis and say, well, you know, maybe they can fly by -- I really don't see how -- but anyway, if you get -- if you do there, then you're into policy, as that's what the DOJ is saying, is look, as a policy matter, this is -- this is water that is navigable and many businesses are on it, so it's private property that you're implicating.

And then from just a humanitarian standpoint, what are these buoys meant to do? Well, let's face it, Christine, to harm or worse, asylum seekers to come into this country. You know, there are other methods of arsenal in -- at Abbott's, the governor's, you know, wheel house. But here, I really think any court is going to say that Texas is just paddling up that river without an oar.

ROMANS: Right, it seems that a legal confrontation might be inevitable, Lis, you know, Abbott tweeting, quote, "we'll see you in court, Mr. President." So what legal arguments might the Texas governor use?

WIEHL: Well, they're going to use the sovereignty argument that they could bypass all of this process. But you know, bam, they go right into a federal Act. So, you know, just fundamentally, fundamental law school 101 is that when you've got a state sovereignty issue or a state judicial issue, procedural issue, jurisdictional issue, and that hits into a federal statute, and here you've got one plus two treaties, then the federal law trumps the state law especially then if you get into policy issues where the Feds are going to argue exactly, you know, humanitarian reasons and all that.

So, all that the governor has to wave in a flag is, hey, you know, sovereignty of Texas, that ain't enough when it's against all of these other things.

ROMANS: Yes, you know, meantime, more than 80 house Democrats signed this letter to President Biden to --

WIEHL: Right --

ROMANS: Investigate the border with Abbott's border initiative that's called Operation Lone Star. I mean, I guess, the battle over who controls the border and control of the border is not going away here? WIEHL: I was going to say, Christine, that's been going on for, you

know, forever, it seems in our country. I mean, is the situation worsening? Yes. But is -- but is the governor taking the right process -- and I know it's boring to talk about process, but it's true, any court is going to say, it just stops there, governor. Your argument about sovereignty stops right there because you didn't follow the rules.

And at that point, Texas is out, and it's going to have to look for other means to, you know, try to protect its border -- its "border" in quotes.

ROMANS: Right, all right, Lis Wiehl; former federal prosecutor, thank you so much, nice to see you this morning.

WIEHL: You've got it, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, quick hits across America now. An army of investigators searching the home of Gilgo Beach serial murder suspect Rex Heuermann, using a police K-9 and ground-penetrating radar this weekend. They also dug the backyard with a backhoe.

Eight people onboard a boat were ejected after a crash into a Lake of the Ozarks' home in Missouri. Troopers say all eight were injured, the driver was arrested for boating while intoxicated. Thousands of juvenile toads crossing a road in Stockton, Utah, left witnesses stunned, look at all of the -- those toads. Experts say it's part of a mass migration that is completely natural, triggered by excessive rain this year.


Just ahead, thousands flee Greece as wildfires rage on several islands. And who won Barbieheimer this weekend, dolls or doom? We have the answer for you.


ROMANS: Chaotic and frightening scenes on the Greek Island of Rhodes as thousands of tourists were ordered to flee ahead of a huge wildfire.


FAY MORTIMER, ENGLISH TOURIST: Absolutely, I've never been so scared in my entire life, I mean, especially when we -- you know, went down to the beach, and she told us that we were all -- you know, we were all going to be doomed.



ROMANS: Greek officials are calling it the largest evacuation effort in the nation's history. Elinda Labropoulou is live for us from the town of Mandra just northwest of Athens. And I wonder, a large fire destroying homes there last week and the flames started again over the weekend. What's the situation now?

ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: The situation here is actually quite good. We've had some rekindling over the weekend, but you know, the area has been largely destroyed by the fires last week. Where the focus is now is the Island of Rhodes, where thousands of people are evacuating. It has been the largest evacuation so far in Greek history.

About 19,000 people have left the island, most of them have been transported through firstly, the road system, then gotten on planes, a number of people have also, about 3,000 people have been evacuated by sea. And we do understand that the fire there is still raging out of control. It's been affecting over 10 percent of the island.

This is a very busy island, an island that's very popular with tourists. So, mainly, at this time of year, a lot of hotels have been completely full, a number of flights have been coming in every day. So just the logistics of getting people out have been very difficult. Greece has been -- has been going through a prolonged heat wave, all of last week, we've seen temperatures of over 104 Fahrenheit.

This situation is likely to continue for most of this week as well. So, as you understand, the country is very much like a tinderbox right now. We will hear of new fires breaking out all the time. There's been another large fire on the popular island of Corfu as well, that broke out last night. And from what we're seeing, authorities are planning some evacuations there as well.

So it is a very difficult situation. The winds seem to be picking up. The authorities have been telling us that, they have a very tough day ahead of them, and it looks like the next several days, if these scorching temperatures persists, will be very difficult, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely, all right, Elinda, thank you so much for that. Right, celebrations mixed with uncertainty in Spain this morning.




ROMANS: More than 99 percent of the votes have been counted in Sunday's general elections with the center-right party in the lead, but no single party won enough seats in parliament to form a majority government. CNN's Al Goodman joins us live from Madrid this morning. Al, what does this mean for Spain, a coalition government?

AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Well, Spain already has this coalition government under the socialist prime minister. What these elections seems to say is, Spain did not want the far-right party to get into the government. Now, as you said, the main conservative party won the most votes, but far short of a majority, and their main party to form a coalition with on the right was the far-right party. The far-right has been making great gains across Europe, they're governing in Italy, they've come into the government in Finland and in other places. The Spanish voters seem to say, we don't want that. Now, for the prime minister, a socialist, to try to repeat a coalition.

A senior socialist party official told me today, that this time, it's going to be tougher because the nationalist parties, potential candidates for this coalition who are in Catalonia, that surround Barcelona, and the northern vast region, they're going to try to extract a higher price from the prime minister this time. So, some political horse trading is in the cards. Christine?

ROMANS: Absolutely, all right, Al Goodman, thank you so much for that from Spain this morning. Right, quick hits around the globe right now, 11 people killed after the roof of a middle school gym collapsed in northeast China. Preliminary investigation suggests construction materials stacked on the roof became waterlogged by rain causing the collapse.

The search intensifies for at least four missing flood victims in Nova Scotia, Canada, after officials say three months of rain fell in just one day, a state of emergency is in effect. Five migrants from Colombia and Peru including a child found alive in a U.S.-Mexico mountain pass after being abandoned by their guide. Mexican officials say they were stranded without food or water.

All right, critical concerns for coral reefs as Florida water temperatures reach unprecedented highs. And who shattered Michael Phelps last swimming record? We have the details.