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Iraqi Forces Break ISIS Siege; U.S. Carries Out Airstrikes, Food Drops; Fans Concerned About Joan Rivers

Aired August 31, 2014 - 07:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I hope that little shot of inspiration got you off to a good start. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Always a pleasure to have you with us. It's 7:00 here on the East Coast, 4:00 out West. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

This morning, we've got an update on those U.S. warplanes that have been taking aim at ISIS militants to try to help thousands of starving desperate villagers in northern Iraq. We're now hearing that Iraqi forces have broken the siege around the town of Amerli.

PAUL: The Pentagon says fighter aircraft struck and destroyed ISIS targets near Amerli last night and they are doing this to try to help save thousands, we know about 20,000 people in that town have been trapped for months now since June.

BLACKWELL: The U.S. military planes also airdropped water to Amerli's residents and Iraqi helicopters you see here, people just crowded around, hoping for some relief. A few women and children were able to board that aircraft.

PAUL: You see how desperate they are. Once they were in the chopper, though, Iraqi forces you see here handing out water, they feared that they would be massacred if ISIS fighters got into their hometown.

Now, here's something else we know this morning. Australian, British and French military aircraft did join in those air drops.

CNN's Anna Coren is in Irbil, in northern Iraq.

BLACKWELL: And CNN's Erin McPike is in Washington.

Anna, let's start with you.

We're hearing Iraqi security forces have, as we reported, broken the siege around Amerli. Tell us how they did it.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Victor. We heard a short time ago that they managed to break into Amerli, those ISIS militants surrounding the town of less than 20,000 Turkmen Shia for the last two months. There has been fierce fighting in this area for days now, ever since the United Nations really raised the red flag saying the potential massacre was under way.

Before that it was only the local police, the local militia as well as just volunteers who were picking up weapons and fighting back those militants. But, certainly, the military through airstrikes, Iraqi airstrikes as well as U.S. airstrikes yesterday, helping push back those ISIS militants, allowing the Iraqi forces into Amerli, really averting a crisis.

But as I say, there were the calls a week ago a potential massacre was unfolding, that ISIS militants have cut off water and power. We were getting reports from the Turkmen Foundation, who have relatives and families there in Amerli, that dozens of children were dying.

So, this was -- this was a crisis, and thank goodness the international community has responded.

PAUL: Yes, this video really showing the desperation there. Just to get, you know, your basic needs.

Erin, now that we see other nations joining in this aid mission, is there any indication that they may even step up militarily as well?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, that's a very interesting question because we do have a statement and some comments from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott from last night and he said at the request of the United States government, the Australian air force is getting involved and transporting military equipment, arms and munitions, but he does go on to say, I want to stress, there is no specific request thus far has been received from the Obama administration, and he says in that vein if a request is made, he wants to answer the question is there an achievable overall objective.

But in his remarks last night, Tony Abbott makes the point that there are 60 Australians who are known to be involved in terrorist groups in Middle East and another 10 or so supporting those 60. And so, this is a threat to Australian security as well, and that's why they are getting involved in the transporting of military equipment, but they have not joined in airstrikes. So, we want to make sure we make that distinction, Christi.


BLACKWELL: Anna, we're also hearing from ISIS about the women that were abducted and now taken as wives, some sold. Tell us about what we're learning from ISIS about these women.

COREN: Yes, Victor, it's chilling. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who have people on the ground in Syria, they are reporting that hundreds of women, up to 300 Yazidi women who were captured in Iraq have been either sold off or given to the rank and file of ISIS -- these women being sold for $1,000 each. You know, we were hearing these reports from the Yazidi men who managed to escape, Sinjar and the surrounding villages, that is were advancing on saying that our wives have been captured, our children have been captured.

It's been hard to corroborate those stories. Certainly now hearing from the Syrian observatory for human rights, from other governments about the enslavement of women this is an alarming development.

PAUL: My gosh, yes, it's horrifying. Erin, we know that the president is going to travel oversea this is week. What do we know about this trip and the discussions he'll be having and with whom?

MCPIKE: Well, Christie, he is traveling to Wales for the NATO summit and also, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be traveling with him. And that the NATO summit is mostly about how to handle Russia, but on the sidelines, what they will be doing is try to rally more allies of the United States in the fight against is in Iraq and Syria, to get more countries like Australia on board in that effort.

PAUL: All righty. Anna Coren in Iraq and Erin McPike in Washington -- ladies, we appreciate both of you. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Thank you to you both.

Now to the crisis in Ukraine and the European Union looking to impose stiffer sanctions on Russia. Ukraine's president says the conflict is nearing the point of no return and full scale war is highly likely. A top E.U. official says new sanctions will be proposed as the U.S. and Germany also weigh tougher action. Now, in the eastern city of Mariupol, residents came out to defend their city as Russia continued to deny it's supporting the rebels or sending its own troops across the border.

PAUL: And we know two people have been killed and more than 150 people hurt in clashes between protesters and police in Pakistan. Police fired tear gas as the crowds threatened to march to the prime minister's home in Islamabad. Now, the protesters who have been demonstrating for two weeks at this point say the last election was rigged and they want Nawaz Sharif to step down. He, of course, has refused.

BLACKWELL: More fallout this morning from the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Two more officers are out of a job, amid these questionable conduct related to the protests in the days following the shooting of that unarmed black teenager by white officer Darren Wilson.

PAUL: We're told one threatened and pointed a rifle at protesters. He resigned.

Another retired after going on a video rant about the Supreme Court and Muslims.

There is a third officer here who was fired for making inappropriate Facebook posts as well. BLACKWELL: So many people this weekend sending their prayers and

well-wishes to a comedy legend. She has been in the hospital for several days now.

PAUL: And everybody is waiting to find out whether legendary comedian Joan Rivers is getting any better. We're talking to a cardiologist who is hopefully going to explain to us what may have gone wrong here during this medical procedure and what this means for the days ahead.


BLACKWELL: Well, fans around the world are still waiting for word on how Joan Rivers is doing. Her daughter says she is still in serious condition after she stopped breathing during throat surgery.

PAUL: Yes, the legendary comedian as we're told had been in stellar shape just the night before. At a comedy routine she was giving, even joked about dying, you know, during this routine. But that's typical Joan, as you know. I mean, she's always you know, ready to laugh at herself.


JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: I hate old people. I say I hate, hate, old, oh, their bodies. The bodies -- enjoy your bodies now. Oh, this is how I go to the bathroom. It is just -- I use my left boob now as a stopper in the tub.


PAUL: She is so funny. Let's bring in Dr. Dave Montgomery. He is a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute here in Atlanta.

Dr. Montgomery, so good to have you with us.


PAUL: Help us understand what may have happened here. She was at an endoscopic clinic. And these surgeries -- I mean, do you even call them surgeries because they are happening outside of hospitals and clinics all over the place. This is common, yes?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, very common. This is an outpatient surgical center. It's said she was going to have a vocal cord procedure, something going on in the vocal cords. And these are centers all over the place and they fully staffed with anesthesiologists and other staff that can handle this. So --

BLACKWELL: Help us understand. At 81, to sedate someone of her age, there has to be some increased level of danger here.

MONTGOMERY: Yes. That's exactly right, Victor.

So just her age alone is a risk factor for these complications that can happen, for any procedure where you're going to be under anesthesia of any sort. So, you're absolutely right.

PAUL: So help us understand the protocol. When her heart stopped beating, you pointed out during the break, we don't know if that was after the procedure happened, after she had been given anesthesia. But once her heart stopped beating, what is the protocol and how much time do you have before damage could be done?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, that's a really great question. Once the anesthesiologist or the physician saw that her heart stopped, the likely thing to happen right away was chest compressions, CPR, because what we learned is that getting that blood flowing again, because the cardiac arrests means the heart just stops. There is no blood flowing. The key is to get that blood flowing again, particularly to the brain, because the brain is very sensitive to not having that oxygen.

If the brain cells start to die and get destroyed, they don't come back. And something that we call anoxic brain injury, that means without engine. That can happen within a short period of time if you're not getting that blood flowing again.

So, that's the likely scenario to have happen. They probably gave her medicines, again hard for us to know or to confirm at this stage.

PAUL: Sure.

MONTGOMERY: But probably gave her medicines to help boost that circulation, because at the end of the day, it's really all about getting that flow to the brain and some of the other vital organs.

BLACKWELL: There are reports that she was placed or possibly is still in this medically induced coma. Why would that be the choice?

MONTGOMERY: Yes. So, what we call it is therapeutic hypothermia is the name of the procedure. What we've learned is in order to actually stop some of that cell destruction that we talked about, if we cool the body down, several degrees, 7, 8 degrees, we can actually stop some of that destruction. And so, she was cooled, she was sedated and paralyzed so that's why we're using sort of that common parlance of coma. But really, she is being cooled under very sedated and paralyzed situation.

We usually don't do it for more than 24 or 48 hours, so if she really started this on Thursday, she's probably being what we call re- warmed. So, she's being woken up and really this is where we'll get to see, did she really have a lot of anoxic brain injury, because she'll have to wake up from sedation, we'll have to do a neurological exam, the physicians there, obviously to see how much function she, if any, may have lost.

PAUL: How common is it for something like this to happen during surgery like this, and would you trust -- I'm not trying to point fingers but a clinic as opposed to especially at that age a hospital?

MONTGOMERY: Yes. So, you know, these surgical centers are fully staffed with people that are able to handle this. The fact that she is alive is a testament to that, right? So, you know, they really set themselves up to make sure that they can handle this.

Is it -- is it common? It's hard to know. It depends on the patient and the procedure. The more complex or high risk the procedure is, the higher the likelihood of complications. The more high risk the patient is that is age, other risk factors like heart disease. We don't know that she had heart disease. We don't know a lot of her medical history. We don't know if she had clotting disease, right? If a clot travels to the lungs, that can make the heart stop.

So, we really don't have enough detail to piece it all together. But that relative risk is you know, the procedure, vis-a-vis the patient.

BLACKWELL: Yes, there are so many people hoping and praying for the very best for Joan Rivers. We're counted among them.

Dr. Dave Montgomery, thank you so much for helping us understand this.

PAUL: Thank you for being here.

MONTGOMERY: My pleasure.

BLACKWELL: Well, the Labor Day weekend got off to an unfortunately a tragic start in Oregon.

PAUL: Oh, this is so sad. A little girl was just -- she was digging in the sand as kids do and it collapsed right on top of her.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard screaming coming from the beach and first, we thought it was just kids, but it was like screaming and screaming.


PAUL: The frantic rescue attempt. We'll tell you what happened.


PAUL: You know, it's the end of the summer I'm sure maybe you took your kids to the beach. And I know I did. And they sit there and they play in the sand, and you don't think anything of it.

But listen to this -- a 9-year-old girl died when a hole she was digging caved in on the beach. Isabelle Grace Franks (ph), she was just playing with her siblings. This was in Lincoln City. And then the accident happened Friday.

Beachgoers frantically tried to dig her out. The sand kept collapsing back in the hole. Witnesses say this hole was several feet deep. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRACE DUDLEY, WITNESS: We heard screaming coming from the beach. First, we thought it was just kids but it was like screaming and screaming.


PAUL: Oh, my gosh. Police and firefighters did finally dig her out. After about five minutes we're told. She was not conscious. She was not breathing and she later died at the hospital. You see how mourners left flowers and candles near the hole that is now filled in.

BLACKWELL: So, please keep an eye on the kids this weekend at the beach.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Hundreds of people gathered this weekend in western Massachusetts there to pay respects to Lieutenant Colonel Morris Fontenot Jr. He died Wednesday when his jet crashed in Virginia. Nicknamed "Moose", Fontenot was a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard and had more than 17 years of F-15 flying experience before he lost contact, he reported an in-flight emergency.


KARA FONTENOT, WIFE: My husband died doing what he loved, serving his country, flying F-15, and what he loved even more was being part of a band of brothers.


BLACKWELL: Before he died, Fontenot told his wife he wanted to plant 40 rose bushes for her 40th birthday. His fellow airmen planted those rose bushes for her birthday. It was yesterday.

PAUL: Oh, goodness.

Well, the NFL's first openly gay player is out of a job this morning. The St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam days before the start of the season. The all-American defensive end made history, you know where he was drafted in the seventh and final round. But he faced some pretty long odds apparently from the start because the Rams, they are pretty stacked at his position.

BLACKWELL: The Rams' move does not necessarily mean the end of Sam's professional career. He could still be picked up by another team or end up on a practice squad.

So, this was outside of CNN on our commute home yesterday. I saw a woman with the blue face.

PAUL: I saw super woman.

BLACKWELL: Gosh, this is a great time to be in Atlanta. It's the time of year when zombies and monsters take over the streets.

PAUL: Yes, the annual sci-fi and fantasy dragon con convention, the only place on earth where you have storm troopers and wizards and villains and princesses, and they're all living together in harmony.


BLACKWELL: Hey, if this is your thing, you love it. If not, may be creepy. Yes.


PAUL: You think?

BLACKWELL: We've got Jen Gray with us here, to take a look at some of the highlights from Saturday's dragon con parade in downtown Atlanta. I saw a woman with a blue face. There was a woman running across the street, it looked like there was blood dripping down her face, but I realized it was paint.

PAUL: Look at this. My kid would kill for that Captain America costume. That's what she wants to be for Halloween. I mean, I think my kids would love this, don't you? Although there are some frightening --

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Some are really cool and some are really scary.

PAUL: Scary.

GRAY: Luigi from Mario Brothers yesterday and on the other side, so you see monsters. But they play these costumes all year.

PAUL: I mean, this is elaborate. They have got -- people from all over the world we should point out, are coming to do this. But it's famous for the highly skilled costumes and the designers and the players who show off some of their favorite fictional and sometimes non-fictional, you know, heroes and villains.

But good heavens, I saw super woman and then I saw thing is didn't recognize. I have no idea.

BLACKWELL: There were so many people here. It's a big year for attendance, record numbers, 400 stars from TV and film, and a lot of comic celebrities as well.

PAUL: Yes, and they often say there's a sense of camaraderie among these folks, the community and they call themselves the self- proclaimed nerds and geeks.

GRAY: I like it.

PAUL: Here is a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got here Thursday. And after walking

through just seeing the people here we said we're buying our tickets next year and I'm coming every year the rest of my life if I can. So, we -- I live in Texas. We'll make the drive every year to come out here. It's an amazing atmosphere. The people have come out here to costumes. It's just a lot of fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the people, it's the crowds, and it's the costuming. And all around the party atmosphere where everyone is -- it's a big and nerdy family. It's almost like Christmas, you know, when you go see your family. This is like our version of Christmas, really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good time to see all kind of craziness so it's always here every year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's our little mermaid and my friend is my beautiful mermaid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as you can hear I am from England.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You travel with the doctor often?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can be just in an elevator, not quite sure where you're going. Not really specific plans and a bunch of people will get on and like do you want to come with us? And you go, yes, right. And make a whole bunch of new friends.


PAUL: Have fun with it.

BLACKWELL: Sanjay Gupta is up next. We'll see you back here at 8:00.