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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Ukraine-Russia Border Tensions; Kenya's COVID Vaccine Mandate; Social Media & Mental Health. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 17:00   ET


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

Tonight, aggravated tensions. We're live in Ukraine as the U.S. considers sending in military aid amid tensions with Russia.

Then, a controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Why Amnesty International is condemning Kenya's decision.

And there's clear evidence of a link between mental health and social media. We look at who is most impacted and which platforms are causing the

most damage.

The U.S. is trying to both de-escalate the situation and shore up Ukraine's defenses amid fears Russia could launch an invasion for the second time in

less than a decade. For the past few weeks, Russia has built up troops and military hardware near Ukraine's border and Ukrainian intelligence

officials say Moscow has been conducting large-scale military exercises in the separatist-controlled eastern regions. The U.S. is now considering

sending military aid to Ukraine, including advisers, equipment, and machinery.

Russia claims the U.S. is already doing that, and it's only aggravating tensions. Today, the U.S. and Russia's top generals spoke by phone to

discuss several security issues. We don't know what they said on the call, but the Kremlin spokesperson says Russia has no plans to cross Ukraine's


CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Dnipro to tell us how Ukraine is preparing for this possible threat.

Fred, clearly, Ukraine has the most alarmist assessment of Russia's intentions. Their defense and intelligence agency thinks an invasion is

coming early next year. Is this alarm warranted? And how are they preparing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly believe an invasion could come as early as the beginning of next

year. It's certainly is something, Bianca, that they are preparing for. On the one hand, of course, they do want international support. They want to

support of the U.S. and its allies.

But the Ukrainians, quite frankly, are also saying that they're not going to back down, that they are going to stand their ground. Now, there's two

things essentially they're doing. On the one hand, they're modernizing their own military, but they're also really improving some of the

infrastructure that's going to be key especially in the east of the country.

Here's what we saw.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): On patrol in some of the most contested waters in the world. Ukraine's Navy took us on a military boat in the Sea of Azov,

just as tensions with Russia reached a boiling point.

Our main goal is to defend and keep the sovereignty of Ukraine from the direction of the sea, the captain tells me.

Russia has been amassing troops near Ukraine's borders, the U.S. says, warning its allies a large-scale invasion could happen soon.

The Ukrainians believe if Russia does decide to launch an attack, that the Sea of Azov could be one of the battlegrounds. That's why the Ukrainians

are both modernizing their fleet but also their infrastructure on land as well.

The Azov coastline holds strategic value to Russia. It would allow President Vladimir Putin to establish a much sought land corridor to

connect Russia to annexed Crimea. Ukraine's defense ministry gave us rear access to the massive construction going on at the Berdyansk naval base.

Kiev has now ordered this building program to urgently be accelerated with the Russian threat looming large.

In order to complete this project as quick as possible, the Ukrainian military tells us they are working seven day a week, and they say once it's

finished, it will offer a formidable deterrent against any Russian aggression. Upgrades seemed badly needed here, with much of Berdyansk port

in utter disrepair. Ukraine says new facilities will allow them the base more and bigger ships here.

We are ready, this officer says. That is why we are here, so that at any time if there is any aggression in the Azov Sea, we can resist it.

Ukraine's president says Russia positioned close to 100,000 troops near its borders, which the Kremlin denies. These satellite images, appearing to

show dozens of military vehicles near Yelnya in southwestern Russia. The Biden administration warned Moscow not to attack and is mulling more

weapons deliveries to Kiev.

CNN has learned one U.S. defense official says Russia's aim may be to create confusion or to get concessions. The Kremlin dismissed talk of a

possible invasion as hysteria, but Vladimir Putin also issued a clear warning.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to consider that Western partners worsen the situation by delivering to Kiev

modern lethal weapons and provocative exercises in the Black Sea, not only there, but also other regions close to our borders.

PLEITGEN: Ukraine's armed forces say they are on constant alert, preparing for an armed confrontation they hope can be avoided.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Bianca, the Ukrainian military also conducted some air force exercises of their own today and the other thing that they

also do is they also drew up a new law that will make it easier for them in the future to draw up to 200,000 reservists should things get worse.

Obviously that is something everybody here is trying to avoid and they certainly hope this conflict here does not escalate -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Fred, what do you make of the posturing that we're seeing? How much of this do you think is Russia trying to test the West's resolve in

terms of whether or not they would militarily intervene if Ukraine was under threat from Russia? We hear a lot rhetorically from Biden and the

West about in support of Ukraine, but there is this big question mark as to whether or not they would actually back it up in terms of military support.

PLEITGEN: Yeah. Well, I think that certainly is a very big question mark, and I think the Ukrainians also feel that as well, if things do -- if bad

does come to worse here, and there is some sort of military conflict or escalation or invasion that they will have to probably fend for themselves.

Most possibly with new U.S. weapons they could possibly employ. But in the end, the Ukrainians, you do feel they're trying to build up the military,

modernize the infrastructure. Whether that's posturing or not, whether or not this is a real threat that's there or a military buildup, that might,

like we've seen at the beginning of this year, at some point go away or Russians withdraw the forces, it is difficult to say.

But one of the things we are feeling on the ground, we're hearing from officials about ground and officials in the U.S. as well, they are taking

this very seriously. They do believe the threat is very serious, and I think that's one of the reasons why you're seeing so much public messaging

on the part of the Biden administration.

The Biden administration also warning the U.S.'s allies this is something they need take extremely seriously, and of course also, some high level

conversations with the Russians as well. Like for instance today when the U.S. chief of staff talked to the general chief of staff of the Russian

military today, the U.S. trying to drive home to point to the Russians -- do not attack Ukraine. The U.S., of course, will be on Ukraine answer side.

Whether or not that means intervening militarily, of course, that's not necessarily something Ukrainians are going to be able to count on. I think

they know that, but they're trying to count on that the well.

NOBILO: Fred Pleitgen in Ukraine, thank you so much.

Poland says Belarus is doing lit toll stop the flow of migrants across their shared boarder and E.U. officials say it's a plan by Belarus to

destabilize Europe. The situation at the border was made worse overnight by the first snowfall of the season. Many of the refugees come from Middle

Eastern nations and the cold weather has come as a real shock to them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We just want a warm place to sit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's not an easy journey. Nor has anyone might imagine it. If we knew it would be like this, we would not

have done it. Worse than everything was how the Belarusians treated us and even worse is the cold weather here.


NOBILO: There's this picture of how bad it's become. An unborn child died in his mother's womb as you crossed the border was buried on Tuesday. The

baby's mother and father unable to attend the funeral. She is in hospital and he in a refugee center.

Do not travel. Less than a month after the U.S. opened its borders to the world, it's adding more European nations to its list of high risk countries

,Germany and Denmark, now joining the likes of Austria, Ireland, the U.K., Greece and Romania. Travel in the bloc itself is on top of the agenda

today, with E.U. governments kicking off debate on whether evidence of a booster dose is needed to maintain open borders.

Currently, the E.U. is using a travel pass system, requiring citizens to show proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus, or a negative test

result. Greece, however, says freedom of movement should only be allowed to those who received the second or third dose in the past six months.

Luxembourg's foreign minister says it was crucial for the 27 states to agree on a common standard. Luxembourg sees some 200,000 workers a day

crossing its borders from neighboring countries. Individually, states also tough approaches as infections show no sign of slowing down. Germany today

announcing that employers can legally stop paying their worker if worker refuses to show proof of test, recovery, or a negative test.


A vaccine mandate in Austria has sparked protests in Europe, and now, a similar measure in Africa is drawing criticism. Kenya will start enforcing

its own vaccine mandate next month, but it's already coming under fire because so few Kenyans are unvaccinated. Amnesty International is among

those saying the plan is realistic.

CNN's Larry Madowo is in Nairobi.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, Amnesty International's condemnation of Kenya's plan has a lot of supporter on the street, because

this will be difficult to implement, no mistake. But if it were to be implemented, it would lock out most Kenyans from public transport, buses,

trains, even domestic flights. It would lock out most Kenyans from bars, and restaurants and national parks. And crucially it will block them from

receiving government services because proof of vaccination would be required and it would be required by December 21st, which is less than a

month away.

I want to read a section of the Amnesty International Kenya objection to this. While there are legitimate health reasons for as many people as

possible to be vaccinated, these reasons should not deprive a person of their right to work, essential services including education, health and

security. Right now, less than 5 percent of the country's population is vaccinated, so it would be a huge jump to expect them to be vaccinated in

less than a month.

And that's where some of this public criticism comes from, because some claim the government here in Nairobi is using a colonial approach. Instead

of explaining to people why it's necessary to be protected they're threatening the public. And some public health experts have been worried

that this might create cases of hesitancy for those not certain why they should get vaccinated -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Larry Madowo, thank you.

An announcement by Ethiopia's prime minister could mark a dramatic new phase in the country's civil war. Abiy Ahmed is vowing to join the front

lines himself and lead the sole judges against advancing forces from Tigray region. He's urging civilians to join what he calls the final fight to save


Tigrayan forces say they captured two more towns as they advanced on Addis Ababa. The U.N. is urging families and staffers in the country to evacuate


Sudan's newly reinstated prime minster is defending a deal he signed with leaders of the military coup. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Abdallah

Hamdok said he wanted to stop the military's bloody crackdown on protesters and avoid a civil war. Hamdok had been held on house arrest until Sunday

when a power sharing agreement was restored.


ABDALLAH HAMDOK, SUDANESE PRIME MINISTER: It is also an impasse, both nationally, domestically, and internationally. This agreement has a great

potential in unblocking this. And I think more importantly, is to allow us to go back to the political process that would allow us to reach the

election point. And hand over power to an elected people and allow these very people to choose a government of their choice. That's why we went into

this agreement.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Personally, do you feel humiliated by it?

HAMDOK: No, I don't feel humiliated for one reason -- I had to take the right decision in the interest of the country. It's not a personal issue

for me.


NOBILO: Let's take a look at the other key stories making international impacts today.

Bulgarian officials say at least 45 people have been killed in Europe's worst road accident in years. A bus carrying tourists from North Macedonia

crash in flames on a highway near Sofia. Only seven passengers survived by breaking a window and jumping to safety. Authorities are investigating what

caused the crash.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced the largest ever release of oil from American strategic reserves. The U.S. is coordinating the move with other

countries, including China, India, and the U.K. The White House hopes it will help lower gasoline prices but Mr. Biden warned that won't happen


Ecuador's president is pardoning some inmates to ease prison overcrowding, including those with senior illnesses or minor traffic offenses. It's part

of an effort to stem a wave of recent prison riots across the country that have left hundred of inmates dead.

Canada has decided to end its pandemic policy of turning back asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States. The decision comes just

week after Canada defended the policy in court. Between March of 2020 and last month, the country turned back more than 500 refugees.

British MP Davis Amess was laid to rest on Tuesday. Amess was murdered last month while meeting with voters at the church in his constituency.


He'd been a member of parliament for almost 40 years. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and three former prime ministers attended the funeral.

Pope Francis sent a note praising Amess for his deep concern for the poor and disadvantaged. Amess was 69 and leaves behind a wife and five children.

We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: Instagram is not reality. We know this. But these four words will be at the center of debate about the impact of the social media on mental

health for over a decade now. We're well aware of the addictive nature and self-confidence issues that can arise from apps, Instagram, Snapchat,

TikTok, Facebook, and so forth. Gen Z, those born after 1996 have only known life online and they are suffering serious consequences because of


As you can see here, U.S. data now shows a stark rise in rates of teen depression if the last decade, particularly for girls. But as has been well

reported tech companies know this. According to Facebook's own research reported by "The Wall Street Journal", their platforms make body image

issues worse for one in three teenage girls, and among teens who report suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of British users and 16 percent of American

users traced those feelings to Instagram.

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist who in a recent article in "The Atlantic" unpacked this correlation between teen mental health and social

media. He explains why teen girls are more vulnerable to the harmful impacts and is now calling on lawmakers to pass urgent legislation on the

matter and he joins me live now from New York.

Jonathan, great to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.


NOBILO: So, let's start with the fact that we've known for a long time, relatively speaking, that social media can have a really negative impact on

mental health, but obviously as each year goes by, we get more data. So, what are we sure of now that we weren't before?

HAIDT: So, there have been study a long time, but psychologists and scientists tend to have this very high standard of proof. We're not going

publish something unless we're sure, unless we have a lot of confidence. And there are a lot of studies showing correlation of time used on social

media with that on mental health, but some scientists say, well, we can't be sure. This is not a big effect.

And what I'm trying to do is show actually, there are lots of kind of evidence and the preponderance of the evidence, that is the majority of the

evidence, does seem to show that Instagram is causing harm to girls.

NOBILO: And why girls in particular, do you think?

HAIDT: So, all teens are glued to their phones. When my son was 2, he figured out how to use his iPhone. The fact that I didn't buy Apple stock

back then, I'm still kicking myself.


So, all kids love it. But the boys as soon as they go online, they're on video games video games put them on teams to compete, which is actually

pretty healthy. Girls gravitated towards the visual, primarily Instagram, but also Pinterest and now TikTok. So, the girls go for visual things and

it's much more about performance. It's not play. It's performance.

And that, of course, women are going to do that, men are going to do that, but 12-year-old girls should not be spending their days performing for

other girls. They should be playing and talking and learning.

NOBILO: And, Jonathan, on that subject, one of the big changes we've seen over the last couple of years, when it comes to Instagram in particular,

which according to your article is the most damaging for attainable girls is the surge in filters that aren't just, you know, like, we had ears or

funny things you can put on your face, but actually can change your facial features, and can amend insecurities you have on yourself.

In fact, take a look at this. My producer and I early were fiddling with a selfie that I took of myself and then just showing how easy it is just to

shorten your nose, take away bags under the eyes you get from working in the news, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, this is so easy to do.

And how much -- how much does this contribute to the poor mental health in teenage girls? The fact that you can literally photo shop yourself very


HAIDT: Yes. The answer is, we don't know how much that is the cause, but I suspect that's one of the biggest features. When I was young, we all talked

a lot about how girls are subject to seeing air brushed models in the magazines. Okay, but you kind of know, those are strangers far away.

The fact that your friends all look much more beautiful than you, because they look more beautiful than they really are, means that almost girls feel

below average. So, I do think that these filters -- many girls have written to me about how sick it is and how they get sucked into it, how they can't

appear unless they face tune. I think all this terrible for 11, 12, 13 girls. Girls going through puberty, it's the hardest time of life and we

should be protecting them from predatory business models that put them in competition with each other.

NOBILO: And from the psychological perspective, even if we're told Instagram is not reality, celebrities and people you see are editing what

you look like to make themselves look better, even if we know that intellectually, what is happening subconsciously if we're exposed to those

images all the time, even if we know they're not real, it's all we see?

HAIDT: So, I'm a social psychologist. I look a ways we're so tuned to what other people are doing. And the fact that we know something consciously,

that's a little bit of brain on the left side. It doesn't really matter. Knowing it's fake has almost no impact on whether it affects you or makes

you feel ashamed or proud. So, we're all very social creatures, all irrational creatures, and this is more true for 11 and 12-year-old girls.

NOBILO: So, is there any chance that these statistics we're seeing now are skewed by the fact that gen Z and like the younger generation today are

more comfortable discussing their mental health struggles? That there's less of stigma. So, perhaps, you know, my generation although may have been

less likely to admit they're going through something, but today, people are more likely to say yes in a survey, I am having difficulty.

HAIDT: Uh-huh, yes. So, the huge surge in mental illness for girls began in 2012, 2013. For the first three, four, five years, a lot of people said

just what you said, oh, come on, this is just self-report. They're saying this on a survey. That doesn't mean they're depressed.

When I wrote my first article on this, "The Coddling of the American Mind" in 2015, we thought may be that's what's going on. Then we got data on the

hospital self-admissions for self-harm. These are girls who were checked in to a hospital because they cut themselves for non-suicidal self-injury and

we also see some the same for actual suicide, especially for young girls, 10, 11, 12 year old girls.

So, this is not just that they're saying they're in trouble. They're cutting themselves and killing themselves. And the rate has doubled. It's

up more than 100 percent since 2012.

NOBILO: Wow. Irrefutable.

Jonathan Haidt, we really appreciate you coming on the program and sharing your research. We'll have to get you on to find out what legislation might

help the problem that we're seeing. Thanks so much.

HAIDT: Thank you, Bianca.

NOBILO: Now, while social media giants are lacking in the action that they're taking, others are taking note of the harmful impact. Just Monday,

cosmetic firms Lush said it would deactivate some of its social media accounts until platforms take action to provide a safer environment for

users. From Friday, its Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat pages will all be shut down.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We're going to take a quick break. See you on the other side.


NOBILO: So, I have a question for you. If you put Chuck Norris and Donald Trump in a sparring ring, who would win? Well, the latter on paper now has

somewhat of an upper hand. The former U.S. president was presented with an honorary Ninth Dan Black Belt in tae kwon do over the weekend. That's the

highest ranking you could obtain with those who hold it referred to as a grand master of the martial art. It takes decades of training to reach such

a level. But for Trump who's never trained it took just one short ceremony.

The president of Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo-do headquarters in South Korea, presented the certificate at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Now, Mr. Trump is not the only person to hold such an honor. Russia's president Putin also holds a honorary Ninth Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo.

And to circle back, Chuck Norris, he's just a mere Eighth Dan black belt.

Kamsahamnida for watching. That is thank you in Korean. We'll be back again tomorrow.