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Iraqi Forces Break ISIS Siege; Joan Rivers Still in Serious Condition

Aired August 31, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Aren't you up bright and early on a Sunday. I'm Christi Paul and we're so glad to have you with us.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock now. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

For more than two months now, residents in northern Iraq in a town there, they have feared for their lives.

PAUL: Villagers in the town of Amerli have been surrounded by ISIS militants. They have no food almost, and no water since June.

This morning, though, following days of fierce fighting, we understand that Iraqi security forces broke the ISIS siege. This is according to a retired general who says Iraqi forces entered the town where they were greeted with cheers.

Residents we're waving the Iraqi flag. They were firing gunshots in celebration. You can imagine the relief for these people.

BLACKWELL: There was relief from the air as well earlier. Iraqi helicopters evacuated women and children out of Amerli, and U.S. military aircraft dropped much needed water to residents waiting below. Australian, French, British planes joined in the aid mission. And the aircraft dropped food but much of it fell outside of the town in areas that were still being held by ISIS at that time.

PAUL: We're covering this developing story from all angles here. CNN's Anna Coren is in Irbil in northern Iraq. CNN's Candy Crowley and Erin McPike are in Washington.

Let's start with Anna.

Iraqi forces are now in the town of Amerli. How big of a defeat is this? Put it in a context, how big a defeat for ISIS?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, ISIS is surrounding that town now for more than two months. And I think many people are wondering what's taken the Iraqi military so long to get there. We heard that desperate plea from the United Nations for a week ago that a potential massacre was unfolding unless there was help immediately. We've finally seen it. It would seem that crisis has been averted. So, certainly for the township of Amerli, a township of less than

20,000 Turkmen Shia, cut off from power and water for weeks now -- a huge, huge relief. We saw those aid drops as well from the United States, Australia, France, Britain.

Obviously, this aid desperately needed. They've been crying out for it for weeks now. We understand there is a hospital in the township of Amerli, only a medical center. So, aid groups on the ground. Turkmen Foundation telling us that dozens of children have died over the past couple of weeks because they haven't received that help.

But, certainly, Victor, this is a huge relief -- and as I say, crisis averted at least this time.

PAUL: And for those pictures of those people, too. You see how desperate those people are.

Anna Coren, thank you so much.

I want to get to you, Erin, at the White House.

We understand that Australia not only obviously aiding in the aid drops but they're sending weapons to Iraq at the request of the U.S. Are they the only country joining in that so far?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Canada, Italy, France and the U.K. are helping on some level, but this was a pretty big statement from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and that's because he made the point and the case that there are some 60 Australians who are involved in terrorist groups in the Middle East and there are about 100 other Australians who are supporting them. And he makes the point if they are willing to kill in the Middle East, they could come back and kill in Australia as well, and that poses a significant security threat to Australia and for that reason, he thinks it's important for Australia to meet the request of the U.S. government to get involved on some level and transport those weapons and military equipment.

But then he goes on to say that the United States government did not make a specific request for Australia to take on a larger military role but he does make the point that if the United States government does ask Australia, they will consider it, according to a handful of criteria. Now, the larger point here is it does provide some momentum to the Obama administration as they go forward in the next week trying to get other countries involved in a larger way to help in stopping ISIS, Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Candy, tell us about that challenge? The president and his top diplomat, they've talked about this international effort that is needed against ISIS, and the challenge they face getting more than Australia to offer these weapons, but other countries who support this effort to stop ISIS.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: Well, in more than that, it's one thing, Australia first -- Australia in saying, yes, we will help with getting weapons to Iraqi troops. You have the Brits who say they are giving some -- they are giving intelligence help, that they are helping in the humanitarian drops that you see but have no plans to get involved militarily. They said they maybe would consider if they were asked for weaponry from the Iraqi government or for that matter for the Kurdish troops.

So, the question, though, is push coming to shove -- suppose that inside the White House now, they are thinking we do have to go, as the chairman of the joint chief of staffs said, in order to get rid of ISIS, we have to get rid of Syria. Who is with America then? Will you see France or Britain or any of those with the wherewithal? Australia for that matter helping with that effort is.

But I would also point you to another part of the world where it's very important and that's the part of the world that we're looking at. What about the Saudis? What about the Jordanians? What about the United Arab Emirates? They cannot ask too much and too visible of a role from these spots but certainly the U.S., that's where a lot of their attention is right now, on those Arab nations that have a lot at stake here in seeing ISIS defeated so they need to have some sort of commonality there. And some sort of coalition that involves those states as well.

PAUL: Very good point. And, you know, Candy, as you bring up where the focus is right now, there are a lot of things to focus on. We know the president, Erin, is getting ready to head to this summit in Wales and we know that Russia was supposed to be the topic at the table. But, obviously, we have to assume that ISIS is as well now.

MCPIKE: That's right. And the White House has communicated that President Obama will try to make that push when he's there, at least on the sidelines.

The other thing I would point out is that Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be going as well to join in that effort and then later, Secretary of State John Kerry and Hagel will be traveling to the Middle East to do what Candy is suggesting, which is to try to rally those nations to this cause as well.

So, those efforts are under way and the White House is definitely communicating that they are trying to make that push.

PAUL: All righty. Erin McPike, Candy Crowley, thank you both so much, ladies. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

PAUL: Be sure to watch Candy Crowley, by the way, in just under an hour here. "STATE OF THE UNION" is coming up this morning at 9:00 Eastern.

BLACKWELL: All right. Now, to the crisis in Ukraine and European Union poised 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 this week as U.S. and Germany also weigh tougher sanction.

Now, in the eastern city of Mariupol, residents came out to defend their city as Russia continued to deny it is supporting the rebels or sending its own troops across the border.

PAUL: Another story that everybody is really is, I mean, Joan Rivers. Is she going to be OK? I think one of the things that's so endearing about her is she's never been shy about laughing at herself.

BLACKWELL: Yes, she was cracking jokes about her own death the night before she suffered cardiac arrest. CNN is talking to a fan who was there.


PAUL: Eleven minutes past the hour this morning, and we're all waiting, aren't we, to hear how legendary comedian Joan Rivers is doing. We know she's still in the hospital this morning after suffering a cardiac arrest during an endoscopy at an outpatient clinic.

BLACKWELL: Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, has issued statement. Here is part of it, "Her condition remains serious but she is receiving the best treatment and care possible."

PAUL: Now, let's face it, social media has exploded with fans around the country. They are sending their wishes for her, for a quick recovery, and their prayers. And I know that means a lot to family.

BLACKWELL: Yes, CNN's Miguel Marquez speaking with a guy who was in the audience the night before Joan Rivers went into cardiac arrest and she talked about her own death. Listen.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joan Rivers appearing fit as a fiddle and in full outrage comedy mode at New York's Laurie Beechman Theater Wednesday night, even joking about her own death.

SHADE RUPE, FILM DIRECTOR: She looked out at the audience and said, you know, I'm 81. You know, I could go at any moment. I could just go over. I could just go over right here -- and you all look down and you think it's part of the show.

MARQUEZ: Shade Rupe snapped this pic from his front-row seat -- a hardcore fan aka Joan Ranger, he even got this one with the queen of mean just after the show around 9:30 p.m. He says she was the picture of health.

(on camera): This was a classic Joan -- tough, funny, bizarre, outrageous.

RUPE: More than classic. The best I've every seen her. Truly, I was really surprised that she just gave everything. MARQUEZ (voice-over): Hours later, early Thursday morning, she

was at Yorkville Endoscopy, a facility specializing in digestive disorders. By 9:30 a.m., during what should have been a routine out- patient procedure, she stopped breathing, went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to nearby Mount Sinai for emergency care.

(on camera): How shocked were you when you heard the news?

RUPE: Absolutely. The world turned upside down, 911.

MARQUEZ: In recent days, the 81-year-old had been in tiptop form. No indication she was ailing. Here she is taking the ALS ice bucket challenge on E! Entertainment last week.

JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: Everybody having security. Security!


MARQUEZ: Then, there was Rivers walking out on a recent CNN interview.

RIVERS: Stop it with, and you do this and you're mean, and you're not the one to interview a person who does humor. Sorry.


MARQUEZ: Feisty and tough as ever. Love for the razor sharp- witted Rivers pouring out.

Actress Marlee Matlin urging Rivers to get well and, quote, "moon the doctors for us while you're recuperating."

Comedian Billy Eichner tweeted, "So looking forward to Joan Rivers' jokes about this."

Actor Zachary Quinto tweeted, "No one is ready to go on without you, lady."

Her fans agree.

RUPE: Joan Rivers is necessary. We love her. We love you, Joan.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.


PAUL: She's going to bring up the comedy on everybody.

We're going to keep you posted as to how things are going with her throughout the morning, of course.

But I want you to think about this because we're coming off for the summer break, and a lot of families went to the beach to take their kids, you're hanging out, but what happened at an Oregon beach is horrifying and what a reminder it is. BLACKWELL: Yes, you have to watch the kids. A kid digging a

huge hole buried in the sand. We'll have details on the frantic rescue attempt, coming up next.


BLACKWELL: Two more medical workers have survived Ebola. A doctor and physician assistant left a Liberian treatment center yesterday. Both have been given ZMapp, the same experimental drug credited with saving the lives of two Americans. Ebola has now spread to five countries in West Africa and have taken the lives of more than 1,500 people.

PAUL: Well, two people were killed in clashes between police and protesters in Pakistan, 150 others were hurt. But here's the latest pictures: police fired tear gas as crowd threaten to march to the prime minister's home in Islamabad. The Protesters who have been demonstrating for two weeks say the last election was rigged and they want Nawaz Sharif to step down. He, of course, has refused.

And breaking overnight here in the U.S.: a 3.4 magnitude earthquake rattled homes about five miles southwest of Napa, California. This happened about 5:00 a.m. eastern. We have gotten reports thankfully no damage. No injuries so far.

But this was a minor quake that comes, as you know, a week to the day. I mean, it was a week ago today I was sitting here talking to you all through the camera about an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 that hit a mile away, causing a dozen of injuries at the time and at least a billion dollars in property damage.

All right. Let's talk about what happened in Oregon because this is such a frightening scenario.

BLACKWELL: Especially for all the families that are going to the beach or are at the beach this weekend. Listen to this story. A 9- year-old girl was killed when a hole she was digging caved in.

This was on Lincoln City beach. Her name was Isabel Grace Franks (ph). She was playing with her siblings when this accident happened on Friday. People there on the beach frantically tried to dig her out but the sand kept collapsing back into the hole and witnesses say this hole was several feet deep.


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


PAUL: And when police and firefighters finally dug her out, she was unconscious, she wasn't breathing. That was after about five minutes and then she later died at the hospital. But you see here what mourners have done for her and her family. They left some flowers and candles near that hole that is, by the way, now filled.

BLACKWELL: The NFL's first openly gay player is out of league, let's just say at least for now.

PAUL: Yes, that's a good way to put it. The St. Louis Rams did cut Michael Sam yesterday, just eight days before the team's home opener. Now, the All-American defensive end made history as you know when he was drafted by the team earlier this year, but he faced long odds from the start because the Rams are so stacked at his position.

BLACKWELL: Now, this 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.

PAUL: All right. You should be in Atlanta this weekend. Storm troopers, wizards, princesses, monsters -- those are just some of the people that, you know, we saw on downtown Atlanta (INAUDIBLE) home yesterday.


BLACKWELL: OK. So maybe this isn't your thing. But, I mean the people watching here is worth the trip.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: These are a few of the highlight's from Saturday's Dragon Con parade in downtown Atlanta. What is that?

PAUL: I don't know, I don't know.

BLACKWELL: It's great people watching. I hear that even Frederick Douglass was there. I don't know how he plays into all this. But --

PAUL: I don't either. But I have been told by my friend Ron on Facebook that it's not quite as provocative as it used to be, it seems. It used to be a little more inappropriate for children, let's say.

But there was a record amount of science-fiction and fantasy fans. I mean, they come from all over the world to attend this annual convention. So, thank you for giving us something else to look at, while you're driving home yesterday.

BLACKWELL: Talking about the provocative nature of costumes. We're coming up on Halloween. You notice some of these costumes are a sexy Bumblebee or sexy nurse or a sexy chef. Can't you just be a chef? Can't you just be a Bumble bee.

PAUL: Especially if you're 13.


PAUL: That's what irks me when I'm looking for my 10-year-old costume. Come on, people. Is anybody with me on that? BLACKWELL: A lot of people.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: We'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: Yes, we're going to leave you with some good stuff this morning. Jennifer Gray joining us for that.

Listen, you got to see this 8-year-old. He could well be crowned the brother and athlete of the year.

PAUL: Yes, it's a story of Noah and Lucas Aldrich. Oh, my gosh, has this thing taken off on Twitter and YouTube and --

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. With more than 72,000 views of this inspiring example of brotherly love, Maggie O'Mara from our affiliate KTVB has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're a very active family and love to run and bike and stuff and we want him to be a part of that.

MAGGIE O'MARA, KTVB REPORTER (voice-over): The Aldrich family heard about the YMCA kids club program and a kids triathlon, and that's when Noah had an idea.


ALISSA ALDRICH, SONS COMPLETED TRIATHLON: And he said, mom, I want to do this with my brother. That's where the idea was born. The next day we started training.

NOAH ALDRICH: We're on the triathlon clubs.

O'MARA: Running, biking and swimming together to get ready, 8- year-old Noah pushing and pulling his brother right along with him.

NOAH ALDRICH: He's just going to be happy that he did the race.

O'MARA: When the big day came, Team Lucas house was ready to roll.

Noah was nervous.

NOAH ALDRICH: I'm scared because I haven't done it with Lucas before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, they will start with a 200-meter swim.

NOAH ALDRICH: We have this cord thing that goes around me and it snaps to a raft that Lucas is in and I just swim.

O'MARA: And swim he did, as hard as he could with his brother in tow.

NOAH ALDRICH: Then we biked and I'm going to be pulling Lucas.

O'MARA: Noah pulled his brother for three miles. No easy feat for an 8-year-old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then they'll transition to the run and they'll do a one mile run.

NOAH ALDRICH: I'll be pushing Lucas.

O'MARA: It was exhausting, incredible show of strength and the love for his little brother. Then, the part everyone was waiting for -- the finish line.


O'MARA: Noah and Lucas felt the thrill of that finish. And so did this emotional mom and dad.

ALISSA ALDRICH: Good job, Noah, I'm so proud of you.


PAUL: Oh, my gosh, unreal. It reminded me of the Hoist (ph).


PAUL: The father and son team that does that, too.

BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Maggie O'Mara from affiliate KTVB for that story.

And it's hard enough for an 8-year-old to complete that triathlon alone, but then his brother in a raft behind him as he swims --

PAUL: He the heart to do that. That was incredible.

All right. Hey, you go make some great memories yourself today here.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.