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Harvey Weinstein Expelled from Motion Picture Academy over Rape Allegations; California Wildfire Death Toll Rises; Post-Hurricane Maria Water Shortage in Puerto Rico; Raqqa Soon to be Liberated from ISIS; Upcoming Austria Parliamentary Vote Crucial to Europe; Author Gabrielle Deydier Challenging French Beauty Standards

Aired October 15, 2017 - 03:00   ET


ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: This out, the Motion Picture Academy expels Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein after shocking allegations of rape and harassment by multiple actors. Also, California burning, the death toll rises and thousands more are evacuated as new fires break out. But a change in weather conditions may help firefighters gain the upper hand.

And thanking her liberators, this woman welcomes U.S.-backed forces, who now control most of the city of Raqqa. Fighting continues in the pockets still controlled by ISIS. Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Anna Corren. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been kicked out of the film industry's most elite group, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It's an unprecedented rebuke by the Academy which hosts the Oscars.

Weinstein has already been fired from his namesake company, amid dozens of allegations of sexual assaults, harassments, and rape. He has denied many of the allegations against him, and hasn't acknowledged others, but has said his behavior caused a lot of pain.

Weinstein was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood for decades. Now the notion -- the Motion Picture Academy hopes to send a message to the film-making industry with expulsion. Brian Stilter explains.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The Harvey Weinstein scandal has been profoundly embarrassing, not just for the Weinstein Company, but also for Hollywood at large. So on Saturday, we saw the representatives of the Hollywood elite make a bold statement, expelling Harvey Weinstein.

Now the Academy is made up of thousands of Hollywood workers, both stars, but also behind the scenes workers, producers, et cetera. And the board of governors, a group of 54 representatives of all those different parts of the industry, met on Saturday to make this decision.

The board includes huge household names like Steven Spielberg, Whoopie Goldberg, but also a lot of behind the scenes people, representing makeup artists, casting directors, producers, executives, et cetera. The Academy's rules require a two-third vote of the board in order to expel Harvey Weinstein, something that's never been done in association with a scandal like this before.

And according to the Academy, there was well in excess of the two- thirds needed to make the decision. Here is a portion of what the Academy said in a statement. It explained the decision by saying that this was meant to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.

That was striking to me, because it's essentially acknowledging that there are very embarrassing episodes in Hollywood's past. This sexually predatory behavior that's alleged, by Harvey Weinstein, has also been something known in the history of Hollywood. This is something that dates back to the dawn of the movie age.

But you can feel that the culture is changing in the United States, that sexual harassment and assault, that these kinds of allegations are being taken more seriously, the women who come forward to make them are being respected, being supported, in a way that wasn't even true 10 years ago.

So the Academy, trying to be on the right side of history at this point, after this decision, hours later we still haven't heard a word from Harvey Weinstein. Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

COREN: Well earlier I spoke to Kim Masters, editor-at-large for the Hollywood Report. She's chased what she calls a big story on Weinstein for years. Masters spoke to me about how likely it is that Hollywood will actually change its culture of open secrets, and why it's so hard for alleged victims to speak out.


KIM MASTERS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: He had one Oscar- winning movie, or Oscar movie in -- movie in Oscar contention after another. Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, The Piano, The English Patient, you know.

Just -- and a lot of people were I guess awed by his ability, despite the fact that he's a very rough-around-the-edges guy, a big bully, not a refined person at all. He nonetheless had that golden touch. And so many people wanted to be in business with him, and many people, when confronted with him, honestly didn't know what to do when he engaged in this behavior that went on for more than a couple of decades.

COREN: Well Kim, in your article in the Hollywood Reporter, you posed the question, will anything change? What's your conclusion?

MASTERS: I think we're in a moment now where things will change to a degree for a while. I'm not sure we're looking at permanent change. The problem we have is that Hollywood power is still concentrated very much in the hands of white men, and the statistics barely budge.

There are very few women who are getting great rules from the studios in front of the camera, few behind the camera, few in the executive suites. I think there's one studio now, Fox, that's headed by a woman, and she has a male boss. So women are under-represented, power is completely out of balance, we just saw the head of Amazon Studios suspended late last week because a woman came forward and talked about some harassment. But if somebody is truly on their game, this has always been true in Hollywood, it's very hard to take them down.

Harvey had been a bit off his game in recent years, his company had struggled a bit, he hadn't quite had the same golden touch. He was vulnerable, and I don't think that's an accident that this happens now.

COREN: Kim, you know the entertainment industry inside out. Are there other Hollywood executives who behave the same way as Weinstein, and perhaps will be feeling quite nervous right now.

MASTERS: I think some of them are nervous. I do think Harvey was an outlier in terms of this -- these rape allegations. I don't think there are lots of people in Hollywood who are actually raping women. I wouldn't - and I'm -- bear in mind, I'm not saying there are none.

But I think there are -- that is an outlier behavior. But I do think there are executives right now in charge of big movie companies and television companies who are probably quite nervous, you know, about what might come out.

And I am finding, for example, in the case involving Amazon Studios, I was talking to this woman who came forward late last week for months before she felt comfortable coming forward. Once she saw other women coming forward in the Harvey Weinstein case, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rosanna Arquette, you know, and less-known women, she felt emboldened.

She actually called me and said she was ready to talk on the record, and that made the difference. Amazon had been aware of this behavior for a long time, but they didn't suspend him until it became public. So it's really important for women to feel emboldened to speak out.


COREN: That was Kim Masters, editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter speaking with me a short time ago from Los Angeles. Well flames from a new wildfire have forced thousands more people to leave their homes in northern California.

The fast-moving inferno started spreading across the state last Sunday. Thirty-nine people are dead, more than 200 missing. The flames have reduced neighborhoods to ash and twisted metal. At least 16 wildfires have consumed more than 86,000 hectares, and officials warn if new fires start, it will spread quickly.

Well California's governor have called these blazes one of the greatest tragedies the state has ever faced. Even still, he says it has united communities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: I just -- we drove by the houses, hundreds of houses that were totally destroyed, and it just brings home just what a horrible situation this is. But at a time like this we all pull together, and all the resources, the people, the police, the fire, elected officials, neighbors, volunteers, it's a real example of how America pulls together, and how California's pulling together, and all the local communities.

So there's -- we're not out of the woods yet, there's still fires burning, there's still danger, people have to not come to the conclusion that they don't need to be on the alert. People need to move when they're told. They have to take it very seriously. This is just part of the dangers we face in this kind of very dry weather with high winds.


COREN: California governor Jerry Brown there. Well 10,000 firefighters are working around the clock to contain these wildfires. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well after a very long, hard week of trying to get a hold of this fire, this may be the last of it. The winds have really come down, and three fires here in Sonoma have come together, and you can see fire crews from the air and the ground are working this thing very hard.

They've been doing it for the last 8 or 10 hours, just pouring bucket after bucket of water on these fires. This is up over Ledson Winery on Highway 12 in Sonoma, just right down the middle of the valley, and this is the sort of stuff they've been doing all day, moving into the hot spots like you have here, and then dumping those 300 gallon buckets of water on the fire, trying to keep it from spreading anymore.

If the wind cooperates, which I think it may from now forward, they believe they can get a hold of these fires. And there goes that helicopter dumping that 300 gallons of water. If you look further south, you can see there's yet another fire there. That's close to the town of Sonoma.

This is what firefighters are dealing with, these very big plumes, these very big fires dotted throughout this absolutely gorgeous area of California. But now the weather seems to be cooperating. The winds have come down, it's still warm, but it's not hot. That humidity is also very, very low, but there is rain in the forecast. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Sonoma County, California.


COREN: Well let's then look at when that rain could arrive in northern California. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now, and Derek, what's the forecast? DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Well Anna, we'll have to be patient, at least towards the end of the week, to see that rain, Thursday to Friday. We'll take it though, right? Still 16 million Americans under a red flag warning right now, but those are set to expire over the northern portions of California at 6 AM local time this morning.

You can see the red flag warnings across the Cascades, as well as the coastal mountain range, including the greater San Francisco region, Napa, into Sonoma. But across the southwestern portions of the state, this is Ventura, Los Angeles, and into Santa Monica, that's where red flag warnings will continue through the course of the day on Sunday.

So still our most critical fire danger really found across the southwestern portions of the U.S. state of California. Why are the conditions improving in northern California? Because the winds have died down, and that makes it easier for the firefighters to contain the blazes.

Our cold front that helps change the wind direction, and help pick up the winds is now pushing to our south and east. We've got a ridge of high pressure settling in, going to bring us relatively tranquil weather, at least for the foreseeable future before the rain moves in on Thursday and Friday.

A part of the world that will see its fair share of rain, northwestern sections of Europe. It's all thanks to Category 3 Hurricane Ophelia. This is a major hurricane. We've been tracking it for several days. It is picking up forward speed, forward momentum, and it's got its eye set on Ireland and portions of the United Kingdom, including Wales into England, so let's time this thing out.

We can't forget about the Iberian peninsula. Tropical storm force gusts expected, especially across the coastal areas of Portugal, and extreme northwestern sections of Spain. That's for later today, and into the overnight hours of Monday.

As we head into Monday morning local time across Wales, into southern sections of Ireland, tropical storm force winds becoming sustained hurricane force winds, that means winds in excess of 120 kilometers per hour, that's for gusts at least.

This will bring the potential of disrupting electricity, as well as some structural damage, downing trees, downing power lines. This storm system however is not a major flood threat, Anna. It does look as if it's going to move on pretty quickly, and heavy rain really will be contained to the open ocean waters. Back to you.

COREN: All right. Good to hear. Derek, good to see you. Thank you. U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico struggling to survive a humanitarian crisis. Drinking water is especially scarce after Hurricane Maria devastated the island three weeks ago.

And now, following a CNN report, a top U.S. congressman is asking federal officials to investigate potentially toxic drinking water in Puerto Rico. Well CNN discovered local authorities were distributing water from a hazardous waste site. Ed Lavandera has more.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some Puerto Ricans are so desperate to find water here on the island, that they've started tapping into wells on what is described as a superfund site. This is an official designation issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Superfund sites exist all over the country. They're considered some of the most toxic sites and ground areas in the United States. Here in Puerto Rico alone, there's 18 designated superfund sites. The focus is just on one of them near the -- in the town of -- around the town of Dorado, Puerto Rico, which is just west of San Juan, the capital here, of this island.

We were with an EPA team as they were taking water samples, and as I mentioned, a few days ago reports started emerging that people were lining up at some of these wells, getting drinking water, or water that was being used for cleaning, or other purposes in their homes, in the toilet system and that sort of thing.

So a great deal of concern about just how much exposure some residents here might have had to this water. And there is now testing being done on these water wells to determine if at all this water is indeed toxic.

Just because the superfund site is around there, that there are toxic chemicals in the ground, EPA officials say it doesn't necessarily mean that those chemicals have reached the water there, but nonetheless, over the course of this next week, they will be testing this water to determine whether or not these wells should be turned off or controlled in some sort of way.

We have seen long lines of people getting into these water wells, using them either for drinking, some people have told us, or as I mentioned, cleaning purposes around their homes. Just kind of goes to show you just how desperate the situation for many people still remains here in Puerto Rico when it comes to water.

EPA officials say they're really more concerned about long-term exposure to this water, that it would require residents to be drinking this water for longer periods of times, months if not years, for them to see the effects of that -- of those toxic chemicals in that water.

But nonetheless, it is still very much a dangerous situation, and they are trying to spread the word out there. In the meantime, this really does show just how desperate the situation is for many people, and EPA officials are urging these residents to stay away from these water wells around the town of Dorado, Puerto Rico, until these test results come back.

So that work will continue, but it will take at least the better part of this week for a full understanding of exactly what is in that water. Ed Lavandera, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

COREN: Coming up, ISIS may be close to losing its de facto capital. The latest on the fight for Raqqa ahead. Plus, Austria may not be an especially large country, but the results of Sunday's general election could send shock waves through Europe's capitals. That story after the break.


COREN: Welcome back. In Iraq, two allies in the war against ISIS might be headed for a conflict of their own. Kurdish troops have been sent to reinforce the city of Kirkuk amid a growing standoff with the central government.

Tensions have been mounting in the region since a Kurdish independence vote last month. Kurdish officials say Iraqi paramilitaries have warned of an attack if the Kurds don't withdraw from a key junction.

And in neighboring Syria, ISIS appears to be near defeat in Raqqa. The U.S.-led coalition says 85 percent of the city is liberated, and there are reports ISIS militants are trying to flee their de facto capital. The collapse of the terror group has many residents celebrating.

A Kurdish anti-ISIS group, the YPG, has released this video. It shows a woman cheering the arrival of YPG fighters and chanting their name. Our Jomana Karadsheh is tracking events in Syria from neighboring Jordan, and joins us now.

Jomana, great to see you. With ISIS losing Raqqa, obviously its capital since 2014, the symbol of the caliphate, this would really sound the death knell for ISIS. Is this the end for the terror group as we know it?

JOMANA: Well as you mentioned, Anna, this is hugely symbolic of course. That is their de facto capital, and three years on, this seems to be coming to an end, with you know, city after city we are seeing being quote unquote liberated, being recaptured.

And it would seem now that the recapture of the city of Raqqa is quite imminent at this point. But there is still some fighting to go, there are hard battles ahead. ISIS seems to be determined that its last stand will be in eastern Syria, in the city of Deir ez-Zor.

And there you've seen this race by Syrian forces backed by Iranian forces, and also by Russian air power making a move towards Deir ez- Zor, and they seem to be making some significant gains. And on the other hand, you also have the U.S.-led coalition and the forces that they back on the ground, also making steady moves Deir ez-Zor.

And also there's that region of the Iraqi-Syrian border, a very challenging desert area too, where fighting is still going to go on. So very hugely significant to see them lose Raqqa, but then the fighting is not over just yet, Anna.

COREN: As you say, there are still fierce battles being fought. We also know that ISIS militants are surrendering. What will happen to them?

KARADSHEH: Well we have to wait and see. If you look, Anna, at what is going on in Raqqa right now, the city that has been under siege by the Syrian Demoractic forces that are backed by the U.S.-led coalition, for months now the situation has been quite dire in there, and the supply routes for ISIS have been cut off. And the civilian casualty toll according to so many reports has been really devastating, really high casualty toll.

And what we're hearing from the U.S.-led coalition in the last 24 hours, that there was a deal that they say they're not involved in, that was brokered by a local tribal council in the city of Raqqa with the ISIS militants, that would allow for the evacuation of the local Syrian ISIS fighters who have been holed up in Raqqa, along with civilians.

Now this statement that we received yesterday from the U.S.-led coalition says that foreign fighters from ISIS, of course we know that so many of the hardcore foreign fighters have been fighting in Raqqa, that they will be excluded from this deal.

But really not much information just yet, Anna. We're trying to understand what is going on with these evacuations, have they happened yet, where this convoy will be headed, and how many civilians, and how many fighters will be leaving, and where they'll be headed to, Anna.

COREN: Jomana Karadsheh, we appreciate the update, thank you. Well Austrians are voting right now for a new chancellor and parliament. It's an election that could affect all of Europe, especially on immigration. The man expected to become the nation's new leader is 31- year-old foreign minister Sebastian Kurz of the center right People's Party. Our Atika Shubert explains Kurz may be young, but he's a veteran of national politics.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (Inaudible) Vienna, and on Sunday, Austria goes to the polls to choose a new parliament, and a new prime minister. So here's the front runner, Sebastian Kurz. He's been labelled a wunder (sp) wuzy (ph), a kind of boy wonder of Austrian politics.

He's just 31 years old, and from his campaign ads, he's pitched as just the fit, mountain-climbing leader the country needs. Right now, he's the foreign minister, but he has his eye on the top job. The People's Party used to be, well kind of old-fashioned, stalwart conservatives.

But Sebastian Kurz has given them kind of a face lift. He's changed the party colors from black to turquoise, and more importantly, he's changed the politics from being more at the center, further to the right, especially on the issue of immigration.

He made his mark in 2015 by closing the Austrian border, and that stopped hundreds of thousands of refugees who are crossing over into Europe. Kurz is not likely to get an outright majority. He will need a coalition partner.

For that he may turn even harder to the right to this party, the Freedom Party. Founded in 1956 by a former Nazi SS officer, it is anti-Islam, anti-immigration, and it's been dogged by allegations of racism and anti-Semitism over the years. But this campaign, it has worked extra hard at revamping its image.

Check out these slick campaign ads, cleverly designed as feel-good sitcoms complete with a laugh track. They follow the Hoovers (sp), an exasperated wife and hapless husband who wake up to find their suburban home is suddenly filled with strangers, eating their food, watching their TV, using up all the electricity. It strikes right at the issue of immigration, without ever mentioning the word refugee.

Now just a few weeks ago, we were in Germany, and there was a political earthquake there during the elections, because the far right party was able to break through for the first time in decades. That was not the case here in Austria.

In fact in 2000, the Freedom Party had a chance to be part of the governing coalition, and it was considered so extreme at the time, the E.U. actually slapped temporary diplomatic sanctions on Vienna, just for allowing the party to be a part of the government.

That is not something we are likely to see now. What we may be witnessing with this election however, is the political marriage between the young, charismatic leader of the center right, and the far right party, with the checkered past. Atika Shubert, CNN, Vienna.


COREN: Well around the world, women are systematically discriminated against for gender, age, and looks. In France, an author is trying to improve things for women who don't fit into mainstream beauty stereotypes. Our Melissa Bell explains.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Glitter, glamour, and the ideal female form, all were celebrated during Paris Fashion Week. But away from the runway, another female type has been attracting a lot of attention in France. Gabrielle Deydier has been speaking out as she never has before, with a book on what it is like being overweight in a country where larger women are rarely seen, and never heard.

GABRIELLE DEYDIER, AUTHOR (interpreted): The French woman is supposed to wear size 1 clothes. She's meant to always be made up, she's meant to be perfect, with lovely, firm arms. The idea is that thin women are winners.

BELL: As a child, Gabrielle was on the heavier side, but she says that she only got fat trying to get thin, and that ever since, her life has been defined by her size.

DEYDIER (interpreted): What you get every day is people intruding into your life. So when I go grocery shopping and I am buying chocolate, someone will tap me on the shoulder and say that's not a good idea.

BELL: And it isn't just intrusion she's come up against, but until the book and the signings, difficult finding work and keeping it.

DEYDIER (interpreted): The principal hired me in July, and when school started, I presented myself to my colleague, and she looked me up and down and said I don't want to work with a fat woman.

BELL: Which is why Gabrielle says the book has been both therapy and a much-needed opportunity. It's made her something of a media celebrity in France, precisely because it appears to have hit a nerve in a country where looks matter as much as they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very hard in France, and maybe more in France than other European countries, because as you know, in France, how you look, your dress code, your physical appearance, is very important in French society.

BELL: Which may be why Gabrielle's book, One Isn't Born Fat, has been such a hit, not only do so many women relate, they also think it is time things changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we are at a moment when people just, maybe they are fed up of being excluded for what they are, or the way they look, or the way they think, and they just like, want to change things. And maybe that's why her book is critical right now.

BELL: Gabrielle says she's surprised at how well the book is doing and is more determined than ever to be heard, and perhaps most of all, seen. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


COREN: Well thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren, and we'll be back with the headlines in just a minute.


COREN: Hello. I'm Anna Coren. This is CNN News Now. The Motion Picture Academy has voted overwhelmingly to expel embattled movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.