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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Tensions Rise Over EU Migrants; NGO Members Arrested In Ethiopia; Lebanon's Cannabis Farmers; Call To Earth Day. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired November 10, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo, in London.

Tonight, concerns of escalation at the Belarus-Polish border. Thousands of migrants now trapped in hybrid warfare.

Then, Ethiopian authorities arrest humanitarian officials. The U.N. says its employees are among the detained.

And, climate and cannabis. How environmental and political turmoil is impacting one of Lebanon's farming industries.

First, Polish prime minister says the standoff at the Belarus border is a political crisis, not a migration crisis. But others are warning it could

quickly turn into a military one. Estonia's minister says it is the most volatile security challenge in the past 30 years.

As many as 4,000 migrants facing desperate conditions are packed against the border on the Belarusian side, trying to cross into Poland. Guards say

almost 600 attempted to breach the border last night and the E.U. believes more are on the way.

The E.U. accuses Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of luring the migrants and then pushing them to the border as revenge for sanctions.


URSALA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: This is a challenge to the whole of the European union. This is not a migration crisis. This is

the attempt of a regime to try to destabilize its democratic neighbors. This will not succeed.


NOBILO: The Polish prime minister went even further, calling Lukashenko's actions state terrorism. Lukashenko denies all of it. But E.U. and Polish

officials met today to map out new sanctions against Belarus. Some may target the country's airline which is suspected of shuttling migrants from

the Middle East. E.U. officials say they plan to visit the migrant's homeland and transit countries to try to put a stop to that.

But Russia is firmly backing Belarus. Two nuclear capable Russian bombers similar to these that you're seeing flew over Belarus today. The Kremlin

said it was to test Belarus's defenses. But the warning to the West was unmistakable.

Migrants who made it across are telling harrowing stories of how they survived and how the Belarusian security officials treated them. One

refugee described outright brutality by the soldiers, while another said that they all but pushed his group across the border.


THAER REZKK, SYRIAN MIGRANT: We have 100, maybe 100 and more, going to Poland, pick up the check (ph).

REPORTER: Who cut it?

REZK: Belarus soldiers.


REZK: And say go to Poland.

YOUSSEF ATALLAH, SYRIAN MIGRANT: The Belarus police come, the guards come, followed us, and then they shout, take a knees, we took our knees like this

and the Belarus soldier just this side. He kicked me in the face with his foot. So I passed out for about a couple minutes. Broke my nose and broke a

bone in here and my eyes are swollen after that.


NOBILO: All of this comes just a couple of weeks after the E.U. slapped Poland with a million a day fine which Poland called blackmail, as they

fought over laws and sovereignty.

So, how is that feud figuring into this handling of the crisis at the border?

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has covered it all for us over the last couple days and he joins us now from Berlin. Fred, first and

foremost, what are the chances that this hybrid warfare escalates into more conventional warfare?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Bianca. Well, I don't think either of the sides really want that to happen.

In fact, it's certainly something that both sides have said that they don't want to happen. But, of course, the threat is definitely there and the

threat is certainly growing.

One of the things we have to keep in mind in that area, a very concentrated area. What you have is that the Polish side put in place around 9,500,

maybe now over 10,000 of its own soldiers. And on the other side you have a lot of Belarusian soldiers talked about as well, the video seemed to

indicate that the border guard or soldier was firing a shot near migrants.

Now, very difficult to independently verify that. The Belarusian side said that it's not necessarily true. But, of course, if you have those kinds of

forces so close to one another in a very tense situation with, of course, all those migrants in between, it is something that could become very


Then, of course, you have the rhetoric that's going on. We've heard the Kremlin essentially blaming this on Poland and then the flights by the

strategic bombers, that in itself, even though Russian side said it has nothing to do with the crisis.


They just wanted to test the Belarusian air systems. That in itself, of course, sends a clear message to NATO. And, of course, all of that makes

for a volatile situation. In the end, as we've been saying, neither of the side wants this to escalate, but it certainly is quite a dangerous

situation as the E.U. has said as well, Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Fred, as this does escalate rhetorically speaking at the moment, it is interesting to see alliances spring into sharp relief,

because in recent weeks and months, we've seen this tension between Poland and the European Union, specifically over jostling about sovereignty over

the polish court and the European court of Justice. So what impact is that having on these current tensions and how it's managed?

PLEITGEN: Yeah, of course, we have the new abortion law in Poland as well that has caused a lot of friction with the European Union and in Poland as

well, as well as the whole debate. And the verdict by Poland's constitutional court as to regards European law trumping national law.

All of that really made for a very difficult situation between Poland and the European Union. And it really seems as though right now, those issues

seem somewhat dormant as Poland is dealing with this conflict.

And I think one of the things we're seeing is that until a if you days ago, there was a certain amount of criticism that came from the European union

as to the way Poland was handling all of that. Specific will you that there is an emergency zone around the borders where journalists can't get in. A

lot of NGOs can't get in for a very long time. European officials can't get in either.

But it really seems like since that escalated, since that large amount of migrants have come to the border, it seems like the European Union is

unifying behind Poland.

And one of the things that I thought was very interesting, Poland on the one hand saying this is not a playing rags crisis, but then the head of the

European Union saying the same words. It seems like the European Union is making an effort to show that it is not divided and it stands behind Poland

and that seems to be the case, that at least for a certain amount of time, it has really unified the countries where you do have the large issues that

of course still will be there even if and when the crisis ends, Bianca.

NOBILO: Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, thank you.

The United Nations says Ethiopian authorities are arresting its employees without explaining why. Seventy truck drivers contracted by the U.N. and

international NGOs have been detained since last Wednesday. Sixteen staff members have also been arrested.

The U.N. hasn't specified the employees' ethnicities but this is happening as Human Rights Watchdog records mass arrests of ethnic Tigrayans in Addis

Ababa. Police deny using ethnicity as basis for arrest, saying detaining people they think have links to the Tigray People's Liberation Front.

That group's rebel fighters and Ethiopia's government have been fighting a civil war for the past year. It has killed hundreds of people forcing more

than 2 million to flee from their homes and fueled a deadly famine. The U.S. staff and contractors come as the U.N. begs for access to Tigray to

offer critical aid and comes amid new allegations of atrocities.

An Amnesty International report accuses Tigrayan rebels of gang-raping women from a different ethnic group.

Let's take look at the other key stories.

A U.S. journalist jailed in Myanmar has been hit with charges. Danny Fenster now faces terrorism and sedition charges which could mean decades

in prison. He's been held since May. Fenster is one of dozen of journalists detained since February's military coup.

China is demanding the U.S. immediately cut off any interaction with Taiwan following a visit to Taiwan by a delegation of U.S. lawmakers. China's

foreign ministry spokesperson said the visit violated the One China Policy and warned against corporation with those supporting Taiwan independence.

The Biden administration has announced a deal with Johnson & Johnson and the global vaccination program known as COVAX. It will provide help to

those beyond the reach of government vaccine campaigns.

Google has lost its appeal of a $2.8 billion fine over the shopping search results. The E.U.'s general court upheld its 2017 decision saying the tech

giant favored its own service and was anti-competitive. Google now has the option of appealing to the E.U.'s top court.

The draft agreement for the COP26 climate summit is out. And now, it's time on negotiate the final product. Right now, the draft calls for countries to

do what it takes to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels.


That's more ambition than the 2015 Paris Accord.

The draft also asks governments to accelerate the phasing out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies. That provision is drawing opposition from fuel rich

countries like Saudi Arabia. And it is being called toothless by climate activists because it sets no deadlines.

The draft isn't final yet is that the language could still be weakened but CNN's Phil Black explains why there may still be room for optimism.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, these draft documents do not by themselves save what is considered by many countries here to be the most

important goal, limiting global average at that increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But crucially, the drafts do keep that hope alive by painting,

illustrating a process by which it could potentially be achieved in the coming years. We know and the draft states that individual countries'

existing commitments do not add up to sufficient cuts that ensure that 1.5 can be achievable in the future.

So the draft says that countries should revisit their targets next year, revise them. And resubmit them, ensuring that they are aligned with their

goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. They said the minister should come back next year and talk about it. World leaders should talk about it in 2023 and

ensure the lead-up to 2030 is sufficient to deliver what the science says is necessary this decade.

Now, this is just a draft. It is going to come under pressure, we expect, from countries who do not want to revisit their targets from countries who

do not want to cut deeply this decade.

But there is a view among analysts and among activists here that if you strip out these provisions from any final document that is released and

agreed to at the end of this conference, then COP26 in Glasgow will be very much a failure -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Thanks to Phil Black for his reporting.

Farmers all over the world have to contend with the effects of climate change. Next, how one crop in Lebanon is bucking the trend.


NOBILO: While nations wrangle over the fine print of the 2026 draft climate deal, there is at least widespread recognition that the climate

crisis is here now. In some countries, the impact about changing climate is made even worse by political turmoil. Lebanon is an example. The country's

political dead lock and economic woes have brought it to the brink. One crop has both a global market and the ability to grow despite the changing


Our Ben Wedeman found out some more.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They're bringing in the sheaves in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley, sheaves and sheaves of

cannabis or hashish as it's called here.

The climate in this part of Lebanon is changing, it is getting hotter and it is getting drier and perhaps this crop hashish is the ideal thing to

grow in this changing climate. It's drought resistant, and doesn't need much in the way of pesticides and fertilizers.

Late October and the days are still warm harvest delayed because the rains came late. Before there was more rain in the spring says this farmer

preferred to give his name simply as Abu Sarah.

There has been much less rain in the last three or four years.

Climate change they can handle the biggest bummer for hashish farmers is politics.

George -- heads the Cannabis Growers Union, founded after the Lebanese Parliament passed a law last year legalizing the cultivation of cannabis

for medicinal use.

But the government bankrupt and perpetually embroiled in the weeds of political paralysis has failed to translate the new law into reality.

Unfortunately -- says its all talk politics and campaign promises. The arguments in favor of hashish cultivation are cutting dry.

The climate here the soil here's the best -- boosts. People say the best hashish comes from the Beqaa Valley. The quality is better than Morocco or

Afghanistan or any other country.

With Lebanon's economy in free fall, this could be a valuable source of hard currency.

According to the UN, Lebanon is the world's fourth largest producer of cannabis. Hashish consumption is a popular illegal pastime in Lebanon and

in a country where warlords have become politicians, where corruption is rampant growing something that relieves the pain of Lebanon's mountain woes

seems a minor sin and says this farmer who calls himself Abu Hannah.

Growing hashish he says is better than being a thief or a killer or stealing public funds or spying for foreign country. Despite climate

change, the grass could be so much greener here. Yet so far, politics threatened to send the promise of hashish up in smoke.

Ben Wedeman, CNN in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley.


NOBILO: Recent former protests this Sri Lanka remind us of what is best. They are importing chemical fertilizer, the kind widely used to grow rice.

The government says it wants to move toward 100 percent organic agriculture as it is more sustainable and better for the environment. But many farmers

say the move has caught them off guard and there are widespread fears of a food shortage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are traditional paddy farmers. The problem at this point is fertilizer. We are hoping that we will get

some. If we receive some, then we will use it. If not, we have no alternative. We have no knowledge on how to make compost fertilizer.



We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: Over the past ten days, CNN has been covering the environmental challenges facing our planet. These issues can sometimes feel vast and

overwhelming. But there are solutions. On Call to Earth Day, we're celebrating a planet worth protecting and the people creating a more

sustainable future, those who are driving awareness and inspiring action.

Three years ago, CNN told the story of a former management consultant who swapped the rat race for a floating adventure. His goal: to turn the tide

on plastic pollution. Many of you saw his story online. There were more than 40 million views across Facebook and Twitter.

CNN's Anna Stewart caught up with him at Regent's Canal in London.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): London's waterways, a place where I love to spend my weekends paddle boarding. But despite the tranquil

surroundings, I'm never far from a piece of rubbish.

Today, I'm joined by the plastic clean-up campaigner Dhruv Boruah on his ingenious floating bike.

I've got a big one.

DHRUV BORUAH, FOUNDER AND CEO, OCEANWAYS: Oh, my God. Thanks a lot. See how it floats by?

STEWART: It is smelly.

Is the situation getting better or worse?

BORUAH: I think it is getting worse now and it has been accelerated by the COVID-19 that made people use plastic more. I'm picking up this single use

PPE, the mask. This is the pandemic.

STEWART: Oh, I think that was a wet wipe. Where does all this rubbish, if it is not picked up, where does it end up?

BORUAH: First of all, it breaks down into smaller pieces called micro plastics. And then from the canal it goes to the river and then to the

ocean, from the ocean to the fish and back to us for dinner. Actually, every week we're eating one credit card worth of micro mass every week.

STEWART: We're eating a credit card worth?

BORUAH: Yeah, it's also in water bottles as well, and bottle water, tap water everywhere.

By collecting the rubbish, it is not that I can clean the river or the canal but I can communicate to people. do you like to bike.

Tell them dangers and ask them to go home and do something about it.

STEWART: You got another project coming up.

BORUAH: Yeah, absolutely.

STEWART: What's next?

BORUAH: So we have to scale up and time is running out. And we are building zero emission cargo submarines, with the core mission of restoring

the ocean. We have micro plastic filters in the submarines.

STEWART: This is so exciting. When can I see the submarine?

BORUAH: We're building the next 15 meter real scale vessel mid next area.

STEWART: How do fishing nets end up here?

BORUAH: People are fishing here.

STEWART: You've been doing it a lot longer than I have. How have I performed today?

BORUAH: You are fire. You have filled up the basket. It is collecting the rubbish.

Hi. Thanks, you could have it.

Before I go, can I give this a go?

BORUAH: Yeah. Be careful. That's it. Here we are.

STEWART: So I'm ready to cycle on water.

BORUAH: You are ready.

STEWART: I'm cycling!

BORUAH: Yeah. I think it is fantastic. Good job.


NOBILO: We're partnering with schools and organizations across the globe to mark this Call to Earth Day.

Stephanie joins us from a middle school in Los Angeles County.

Stephanie, good to see you. Tell us how the children are marking Call to Earth Day there with you.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, Bianca, here on this campus, they are doing a lot. I'm on the campus of Santa Fe Computer

Science Magnet School. And as you can see, they're busy planting trees here. They're painting murals about water in 110 different ways in Los

Angeles County, all of this because they want the students to understand that they are part of the climate and the things that need to be changed

for their generation.

I want to introduce you to Geoff Zamarripa, the principal here at the school.

Jeff, tell me. There is so much going on about letting these children know about climate change. Why are you making it such a push at the school?

GEOFF ZAMARRIPA, PRINCIPAL, SANTA FE COMPUTER SCIENCE MAGNET SCHOOL: Our students, they're future, right? These are the future stewards of the

planet earth. And we need to bring this awareness to these kids so they understand their connection to this planet.

And not only that, the opportunities that exist especially in the Greater Los Angeles Area for their education to connect to doing something for the



These are the future innovators, the future environmental engineers that are going to make these changes happen for all of us.

ELAM: And inherit the earth. You can see, too. You can see exactly what the principal is talking about. They're even getting rid of that really hot

asphalt here. It is hot here in Los Angeles County at different times of the year. So getting rid of that black asphalt and putting in lighter

colors, things that absorb water so it recharges the water under the school.

So, making it so the kids understand that they are part of the ecosystem and they can do things to make change is that beautify the environment

where they come every single day, Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Stephanie, from the conversations you've had with the children there, I mean, how concerned and optimistic are they about the

future of the planet and protecting it from climate change?

ELAM: I think one of the key things is that they're aware of it. I know that when I was in middle school, when I was in California growing up, we

didn't even talk about these things. These children are aware of it. They understand the importance of being out here. The school is done for the

day. They're out here doing this after school because they care.

They're out here to beautify their school and they have some outdoor classes here as well, which they really like, especially after COVID, where

they can come out, sit outside for a class, they had a mandarin class here earlier. They sit on these boulders and they're able to have class outside

and enjoy the outdoors and also still learn as well.

So, all of that is very influenced them to be a part of it and to play a role in beautifying their neighborhoods but also making for a healthier

environment for everyone who lives here.

NOBILO: Stephanie Elam, thank you so much. It's great to see you. Such a great message to see all the children planting trees there. And great bow

tie for the principal.

It's really -- it's special to see everybody working together. Thank you.

And we're so glad that you could be part of our special coverage on this Call to Earth Day. For more, visit us online at

This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. Thanks for joining us. Good night.