Return to Transcripts main page

The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Eastern Europe's COVID Crisis; Biden Arrives at G20 Summit; Climate Crisis Accountability. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired October 28, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Good evening, all. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo.

The stories making international impact today:

Ukraine's black market -- forged COVID certificates are creating complications for the country's battle against the virus.

Then, the U.S. president heads to the G20. We're live in Rome.

Plus, pledges and promises. We dive into the issue of climate accountability.

Right now, the world is looking down the barrel of rising COVID infections and deaths. The WHO reporting an increase for the first time in two months,

largely driven by Europe. And we've been reporting this week that there's a clear divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, and it's

evident when it comes to infections and deaths in Europe.

Eastern and Central Europe, where there are dismal vaccination rates due to hesitancy and government distrust is continuing to spiral out of control.

Russia, Ukraine, and Hungary are now clamping down with new restrictions.

In Russia, the crisis looks like this: cemeteries, morgues, and hospitals are packed full and completely overwhelmed. It's especially severe in rural

regions. Many have had to expand cemeteries and open up new ones because so many people are dying.

One funeral worker union representative says the way they're having to bury people risks taking away their very monument.


ANTON AVDEEV, RUSSIAN FUNERAL WORKERS UNION REPRESENTATIVE (through translator): Although regions must have understood that situation because

in Moscow, all of these began much earlier, but everybody thought it would pass by. Head doctors continue to give dead people away from hospitals in

black trash bags. It causes social irritation because within our traditional society, the deceased is a human being, not a rabbit dog, not a

cow who died of typhus. It's a human being. We can't put two coffins in one car. That is the problem.


NOBILO: Russia's trying to fight soaring cases by introducing national paid holiday. It starts today in Moscow. Shops, businesses and

entertainment venue are now closed. But even with new restriction, life on the street isn't looking much different yet.

CNN's senior international correspondent Sam Kiley shows us.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the first day of COVID restrictions in Moscow, and that street is empty. The problem is

that it's fake. It's fake snow, and this is a film set.

The truth of the matter is that on this side of the street, it's pretty busy. And that is because although Russia is seeing a rate of deaths from

COVID over 1,000 a day, the nation has been sent home from work. There is no lockdown.

Here in Moscow, the whole idea is that the restrictions that are being placed on people are trying to break the cycle of infection rather than

lock people down, because the essential issue for this country like so many other is to try to keep the economy, the wheels of the economy turning, and

from the Russian perspective, the show must go on.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Moscow.


NOBILO: Right now, Ukraine has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world. There will be new restrictions in Kiev on Monday. People can

visit crowded places only if they have been vaccinated or have a negative PCR test. But that is opening up a new black market. Forged vaccine and

testing documents.

In this video that you're looking at, police are raiding a doctor's office and seizing $12,000 in cash. It's just one of hundreds of criminal

investigations in the country.


YEVHENII YENIN, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): Ukraine is almost drowning in forged vaccination certificates. In the last

days criminals unfolded their act at this time on a scale close to mass production. Do not become coronavirus accomplices. Get vaccinated.


NOBILO: Exhausted health workers say the fake documents are prolonging the pain of the pandemic.



We want to be ordinary doctors. I am for example a cardiologist.

I want to be a cardiologist, not a COVID doctor. I want to have a good sleep instead of answering night calls by my terrified patients. I want my

family to live in safety, I want not to be afraid of bringing the infection home to where my family live.

That is why I believe buying a COVID certificate is now probably the worst crime committed against the country and our society.


NOBILO: Hungary is also putting new restrictions in place. Starting Monday, the country will have a vaccine mandate for state employee, will

require face coverings on public transit and ban visitors to health-care facilities.


The prime minister's office is trying to ramp up its messaging regarding vaccinations.


GERGELY GULYAS, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER'S CHIEF OF STAFF (through translator): We keep calling on people to get vaccinated. These measures

aim to raise the number of vaccinations. If we look at the European figures, we see that vaccination is the only thing that provides effective

protection. Where the vaccination rates are high, the number of hospitalizations and deaths is low. The lower the vaccinate rate is, the

more tragic the situation is.


NOBILO: Let's take a look at other key stories today.

Germany reported more than 28,000 new COVID cases Thursday, the biggest one-day jump in two weeks. COVID has been on the rise there since mid-

October be the number of patients and ICUs has risen by 15 percent in the past week.

Christchurch, New Zealand, has reported its first case since May of 2020, seven months ago. We now know of two cases found in one home, and both

people will be quarantine. There's fewer than 6,000 cases in New Zealand since the beginning of the pandemic.

The U.K. is removing the last seven countries on the red list requiring travelers from those nations to quarantine for ten days. But officials say

if any country experiences a disturbing spike in COVID cases, it could be put back on the red list.

Now, one of the biggest companies on the planet is rebranding, no doubt eager to change the conversation after a series of scandals and whistle-

blower revelations. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the parent company's new name will be Meta. He says it reflects an expansion beyond

social media into a virtual reality venture that he showed off today.

Zuckerberg says the company is building its future on the metaverse, an immersive 3D experience online. You'll still see Facebook's name next time

you log in, but it will no longer be the overarching brand.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I'm proud to announce our company is now Meta. Our mission remains the same. It's still about bringing people


Our apps and their brands, they're not changing either. And we are still the company that designs technology around people. But now we have a new

North Star to help bring the metaverse to life, and we have a new name that reflects the full breadth of what we do.


NOBILO: Let's bring in our chief Brian Stelter to talk more about the big announcement but also critically about the timing.

Brian, first, I really want to know what your reaction was to Meta. Does it mean something beyond pinpointing the metaverse they'll be focusing on?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it really is a Meta name and it's Mark Zuckerberg's attempt to change the narrative and change the

conversation, change the story around Facebook.

You know, he invented this thing nearly 20 years ago at Harvard. We've all seen the "Social Network". We know the real story about Facebook.

But the product changed so much, because it's become so toxic, that Facebook is not what it used to be, and he's clearly trying to erase all of

the things we now know about Facebook and the toxicity and introduce something new. He really believes the metaverse will be the future.

So, I think it is a common sense move from that standpoint, but it doesn't erase the reality about Facebook. Nothing about Facebook actually changes.

He's not able to erase the problems we've read in recent weeks just by having a new name, and count me as pretty skeptical that we're all actually

going to live in this virtual reality tennis match we're seeing on screen.

NOBILO: Yeah, Brian, I'm with you. I don't want to be living in that virtual reality, but that is an important point. And I think it's very odd

when you consider all the time of these revelations and the criticism that Facebook has faced to be doubling down on this strategy which wants to

expand further into our lives.

Are they aware of the optics of how that looks?

STELTER: Well, that's the key. There's such a trust deficit. Here in the U.S., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the lawmaker, came out after the name was

announced she said, it doesn't matter. Facebook, or Meta, whatever you call it, it's a, quote, cancer on democracy, cancer to democracy is what she


Now, look, if in five or ten years, Zuckerberg can make it possible for you in London and me in New York to go to a party together, and we all wear

these headsets and they're not that weird, right, or ten years from now, if I can in the room with my kids when I'm traveling in a business trip, if it

can work in a way that's seamless and powerful, then that's going to be a great thing, and there can potentially be real improvements to our lives

from this so-called metaverse.

But right now, it is just an idea. Right now, it's not a product you can go and buy. So Zuckerberg is not presenting something new. People are stuck

with the Facebook and Instagram of today, which has many downsides which are being exposed through these investigations.

So, frankly, that's the story today. He wants to story to be about the metaverse, but the story today is still about the damage done by his



NOBILO: Brian Stelter, thanks so much. See you soon, on TV, not the metaverse.

STELTER: Yes, thanks.

NOBILO: India's supreme court has ordered an independent investigation into alleged phone hacking that it says would have Orwellian implications.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is accused of using surveillance software made by an Israeli firm to spy on journalists,

opposition politicians, judges, and activists. It's been dodging whether the allegations are true, citing national security concerns. But the

Supreme Court says the government can no longer get a free pass.

Sudan's military coup is capturing the headlines but the country is facing a severe economic crisis that the coup is likely to make much worse.

Protests and widespread strikes rocked Sudan since the coup abruptly halted its transition to democracy. Within days, the World Bank and U.S. suspended

millions of dollars in aid, and businesses across the country shut down.

Sudan was already in a deep economic crisis with triple digit inflation and frequent shortages of fuel, bread, medicine, and other essentials, but it

was recently showing signs of recovery. Now, that's in serious jeopardy.


DAVID MALPASS, WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: I'm deeply concerned about the developments of this week. We suspended our -- disbursements and the

development of new programs, but for the people of Sudan, it's critical to get on track and have a restoration of the transition process.


NOBILO: Now an update on a CNN exclusive that aired first right here on THE BRIEF last night.

Tsai Ing-wen acknowledged the U.S. military forces have a presence in Taiwan and are helping to train troops there. Last night I asked my

colleague, Will Ripley, how China was likely to respond to the content of the report because it may have suggested a sense of provocation to China,

and now we know exactly how China responded.

China's foreign ministry is accusing the U.S. of destabilizing the region by, quote, flexing its muscles in the Taiwan Strait. It also warned that

any idea of Taiwan independence is a dead end.

U.S. President Joe Biden is aboard Air Force One this hour flying to Italy. His destination, Rome, and the first face-to-face G20 Summit in two years.

After that, he'll head to Scotland for the COP26 climate meeting. So, along with COVID, fighting climate change will be one of his top focuses at the


But Mr. Biden is bound the find some countries such as India, China and Russia want to take a slower approach to phasing out coal and other fossil


We have numerous correspondents covering the G20 Summit for you live from Rome. International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is there for us, along

with White House reporter Kevin Liptak.

Kevin, let's start with you.

President Biden set to arrive very shortly in Rome, emboldened perhaps by an apparent domestic victory. What do you think he's hoping to achieve in

his meeting with pope tomorrow and at the G20 summit overall?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, there are a few buckets of things the White House and president want to accomplish here. In fact, a

White House official told us in the last hour or so the president will convene a meeting on Iran -- on the Iran nuclear deal on Saturday with the

leaders of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. He'll also host a special session on Sunday, hoping to focus on the supply chain issues.

That's in addition to some of the broader themes here at the G20, things like climate, taxes, income equality, global health.

Of course, those are all issues where the president finds himself aligned with Pope Francis. Those are issues he's expected to discuss at the Vatican

tomorrow. Of course beyond just the political aspects, this is a very highly symbolic meeting for the president. He's America's second Catholic

president after John F. Kennedy.

He's very devout, one of the most devout presidents in decades. He goes to mass every week. So that is expected to come up there.

Of course, as you mentioned, the president is coming over here with an apparent domestic victory, although some of the contours of that are still


It's really interesting, Bianca, how sort of the president's foreign agenda and his domestic agenda have all aligned in the last couple of day as he

comes over here to Rome for the G20, the president made clear to Democrats he wants to come here with a deal for social spending, social safety net

expansion in the United States in hand.

In fact, this morning when the at was heating with at Democrats and Nancy Pelosi, she actually said it would with embarrassing if he arrived here

without a deal in hand.

Now the president will want more clarity on that before he starts meeting with global leader on Saturday -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Kevin.

And, Nic, to you, welcome to the program.


What initial tensions and opportunities are you ready to keenly observe at this summit?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think one of them is very close to home to you right now, and that are the current

tensions between the French and British over fishing. France has taken into custody a British fishing vessel.

The temperature in terms of rhetoric is going up a little on that. Emmanuel Macron really not holding Boris Johnson particularly in high favor, not

just on the remnant of Brexit, but also the fact that it was Britain and United States and the United States that skippered the Australia deal with

France to produce submarines for Australia. So, there are tension existing there. That's going to be interesting one to watch.

And with Scott Morrison as well, the Australian prime minster, and Emmanuel Macron, the French president. The French president said that there should

be tangible actions if he's going to continue to sort of this cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

So, these are things that are on the margin where there are existing tensions, and I think as well, you know, this underlying sense that so many

allies of the United States felt really put out and hard done by over the United States' rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan. That's sort of lingering

out there.

Some room for the U.K., Germany, France to work together with the United States as allies and partner on the Iran nuclear deal issue.

But I think the big picture is, how is the mood in the room going to be different at this massive G20 summit, 80 percent of the world's GDP, 60

percent of the world's population, without President Xi and without President Putin who are staying at home because of COVID issues in their


So I think perhaps it's going to be a slightly different tone around the table, but as for nailing the big global issues of COVID equality for

vaccines across the planet, leveling up women equitably in the workplace around the world, these are still, you know, issues on the horizon more

than actually are going to be signed off on at the table.

NOBILO: Uh-huh. Nic Robertson and Kevin Liptak, thank you both so much for joining us from the Eternal City.

As Nic just mentioned, relations between France and Britain are at a low point as the two sides battle over fishing rights. The U.K. has summoned

France's ambassador and says France is violating international law just hour after a British fishing boat was seized by French authorities. The

French say the boat was illegally fishing in its waters.

Now, this all ties back to Brexit. France says the U.K. is not living up to promises to grant French boats licenses to fish in British waters. French

fisherman say they just want to go back to friendlier times when both sides work together.


MARC DELAHAYE, DIRECTOR, NORMANDY FISHING ASSOCIATION (through translator): Our fishermen have been complaining for a while that in British waters,

British vessels come to run checks very often, that they're aggressive over the radio. There are no incidents at sea, but they are very threatening

over the radio, and there was this criticism that thing were more cool and relax in the French waters.

Overall, the fishermen would like to go back to the relationships of pre- Brexit, with friendships and rivalry, like any human beings but to be able to share a beer in each others' bars, for this to be no more than a bad



NOBILO: Now, the E.U. says Russia is using its rich natural gas supplies as a political weapon. Russia's Gazprom recently doubled the price of gas

it sells to neighboring Moldova. E.U. officials say Russia is trying to get political concessions from Moldova in exchange for lowering the price of

gas. Moldova's prime minster is understandably frustrated.


NATALIA GAVRILITA, MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER: The country cannot afford this politically, economically, or socially, so it is very important for the

government to, you know, find solutions, find long-term contract on conditions that we can afford.


NOBILO: The E.U. has promised to help Moldova ride out the gas crisis by giving it a $70 million grant.

Still to come tonight, the heroes and laggards of COP26 becoming clearer as climate pledges start rolling in. But can countries be held accountable on

their climate promises?

Plus, a Venetian gondolier is making history in a surprising way, at a 900- year-old event. We'll tell you all about it.



NOBILO: Tonight, just three days out from COP26, we want to look more closely at the issue of climate accountability. The villains of the summit

becoming very clear as more pledges trickle in. Today the E.U. announced that 60 countries have already signed up to the global methane pledge,

meaning they commit to reducing methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030.

But not everyone is on board. Australia says they won't be joining and today we're seeing new emissions pledges. China, the world's biggest

polluter, has submitted its new plan with very little improvement.

Meanwhile, India has outright rejected calls for a net zero emissions target. Now, this from India is particularly important. This summit is the

deadline for countries to set ambitious national pledges to reduce emissions, as outlined in the Paris Climate Accord.

The Paris Climate Accord is binding, meaning countries are obligated to set targets under international law. Where it gets murky, however, is the

accountability of actually sticking to those promises.

While the pledges are legally winding, translating those targets into domestic legislation is not. Meaning countries can pick and choose

environmental policies at home that align with economic or political interests.

I asked the former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, about the gap between climate

commitments and the international stage back home.



international level that are legally binding in all countries that have ratified the Paris agreement, and that is now all of them, but it's

critically important they be taken down to the level of policies, regulations, measures, incentives, because otherwise they won't get done.

And the fact is here that the test of whether we're actually responding to climate change is not what the paper says, is not what an agreement says,

is not what the legally binding agreement says. It is what the emissions are, as scientifically measured and verified.

So, that's where we need to get to. It's not about the legal agreements. It is not about the intentions. It's not about the plans.

It's not about the business plans, the commitments, the pledges. It is about the real emission reductions. So that is the test, whether emissions

are actually going down as verified by our technologies.


NOBILO: So, as we accelerate toward COP26, let's keep in mind the gray areas of these pledges. To have climate accountability, international

commitments need to translate to action back home. If and how that happens will be one of the biggest tests for this summit.

Lego has published building instructions for a greener world. The company listened to the concern of 6,000 kids about climate change and produced ten

steps on how to tackle the climate crisis.


Eleven percent of the kids said they thought about the environment every day and global warming is now their top concern. The hope is that the

handbook which will be handed out to delegates at COP26 will remind leaders to put children and the next generation at the forefront of the discussion.

Lego produces billions of plastic bricks a year and recently released its first recycles bricks which will be made from discarded bottles.

You're watching CNN and we'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: I live in the Venice and one of the highlights of the year there is the Regatta Historico. It's been happening annually for about 900 years.

It's got costumes, a water pageant and boat racing.

And now, for the first time, a doping scandal. That's according to the Italian newspapers. A Venetian gondolier is being sanctioned for having

marijuana in his system, not a renown performance enhancer. He participated in the most popular race of gondolini, a superfast gondola. He's being

stripped of his second place title and banned for 13 months.

The gondolier's lawyer calls the decision unfair, because it's not actually in the regatta rules.

I can finally use my Italian hand gestures for myself and the team. We'll see you tomorrow. I'm off to play Age of Empires.