Return to Transcripts main page

The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

World Waits For Answers About Omicron Variant; Intensive Care Units Overwhelmed As Germany Faces Surge; NATO Talks Underway As Ukraine-Russia Tensions Escalate; Report On Sexual Harassment In Australia's Parliament; U.S. Removes FARC From List Of Terrorist Organizations. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCO NOBILO, CNN HOST: Then, a culture of sexual harassment. A new report gets a stark reality check for Australia's parliamentary offices.

And the U.S. takes the Colombian group FARC off its foreign terror list. We look at the group's wide influence in the region.

First, don't overreact. Don't have knee jerk responses. That's what the World Health Organization said today, urging countries to avoid blanket

travel bans to control the Omicron coronavirus variant. Omicron has been identified in 20 countries now with at least 70 countries and territories

already banning travel from South Africa, Botswana, and neighboring countries where it first appeared.

South Africa was the first to report the variant to the World Health Organization. Its leaders now say that they're being unfairly punished bid

most of the world. The WHO says such bans place a heavy burden on lives and economies and argue that they don't stop the spread of the virus.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

Sanjay, thanks so much for being with us this evening.


NOBILO: Now, when we look at the pace of this response regarding travel restrictions, in particular, it's quite unprecedented throughout the

pandemic. And the WHO has called the countries not to overreact. But it does seem that we need time to understand Omicron.

So, what do you think? Is this an overreaction or is this warranted action?

GUPTA: Well, it's probably an overreaction, Bianca, you know, in part because at the time you start to see this, you know, even in South Africa,

given the nature of global travel, it's probably in many places around the world. Just hasn't been detected yet.

You know, we learned the lesson in March of last year. You may remember, Bianca, it was March 13th that the United States put in the travel ban from

Europe when you go back and look at the data, you find it was actually maybe a week or two earlier than that the virus was already spreading quite

rapidly in the United States. So, it probably doesn't make that big of difference. If kind of gives you illusion of doing something but probably

doesn't make that big difference. If we knew for sure Omicron wasn't in the United States yet or the other countries that have been instituting the

travel bans, then perhaps.

But again, I think you would be hard pressed to make an assumption like that.

NOBILO: And speaking of the rapidity of transmission, today, the European medical agency said it could approve a new vaccine to tackle this new

omicron variant, if needed, in three to four months. How useful do you think it will be when the virus will likely be very wide spread by then?

GUPTA: Well, that's going to take a little bit of time, as you're pointing out. I think what is important right now is if you look at the early data

coming out of South Africa. You have a country of about 60 million people. About 16 million have been vaccinated.

Look at sort of what happened over time. You know, they didn't start rolling out vaccines until February of this year, Bianca. It's a a huge

surge and then it comes down. Huge surge again, then it comes down.

This tells a really important story. First of all, that natural immunity or infection acquired immunity is not lasting that long, right? That the cases

pop back up right away with delta and we're starting to see that with Omicron, as well.

But if you look at the majority of people that have been infected, this is according to the health ministry in South Africa, the majority are

unvaccinated. So, it does provide some early evidence that the existing vaccines, even though they haven't been rolled out in large numbers in

South Africa, it does show the vaccines seem to be protective. We'll see if that holds up or not.

NOBILO: And, Sanjay, we've heard anecdotal and early information about Omicron that happens symptoms are mild or people are asymptomatic. We don't

know yet. We don't have sufficient yet. But theoretically, could there be a public health benefit to a variant which causes mild symptoms becoming the

dominant strain in this pandemic?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I'm really woe to suggest that a milder variant should be something we shouldn't care as much about because this is a novel

virus, Bianca. You know, even people have milder symptoms, sometimes the symptoms can be long lasting.

They developed these long COVID symptoms. I know people personally who had that. They didn't have much in the way of symptoms but have persisted for

months now. So, I don't think that's an effect I have strategy.

I think there's an idea, though, you hear a lot in virology that is something becomes more transmissible, if the virus becomes more

transmissible, it may lose some of its lethal punch at the same time. That may be what's happening with Omicron, we don't know yet.


I do want to point out that I looked carefully at the data in Gauteng province, which is where Johannesburg is located, a lot of attention there.

Bianca, look at what's happened over the last three weeks. The hospitalization rates have gone up significantly, quadrupled.

Now, this is late spring in South Africa. So, you know, it's past flu season. Weather is getting warmer. Typically, respiratory diseases go down

at this point and hospitalizations have gone up.

We don't know for sure it's correlated to the Omicron variant, but this is a sort of data that people are keeping an eye on. Point being, I don't know

we can say for sure that it's mild in terms of the disease it causes.

NOBILO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for joining us. Obviously, we can't say that yet and the data you showed us is definitely cause for

concern and caution. Thank you.

GUPTA: All right.

NOBILO: As the threat of the Omicron variant looms large, the impact of the delta variant in Europe remains staggering. The Netherlands is

scrambling to make ICU beds available after a record number of weekly new infections. The country is under lockdown measures that went into effect on

Sunday. Poland and France have both hit figures not seen since April.

Poland has recorded its highest one-day death toll since then, with more than 500 people reported dead on Tuesday with majority of whom is

unvaccinated. France has registered more than 47,000 new cases, the biggest number since April 8. And people in Switzerland could face tighter

restrictions following an emergency government meeting. Authorities are looking at whether to make the COVID certificates compulsory for all indoor


At least four cases of the Omicron variant are being reported in Germany, which is already in the grip of a huge COVID wave. Relatively low

vaccination rates have been blamed and ICU units are feeling the critical knock-on effects.

Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Another tragic day in this ICU near Germany's capital Berlin. This 82-year-

old woman's husband just died of COVID here, now doctors and nurses are fighting for her life.

When we asked if she's surprised that she got the virus, she shakes her head. No, she says.

That's because Germany is currently suffering through the worst COVID outbreak since the pandemic began. And most of those who end up in ICUs are

unvaccinated or might have waning immunity because they're in need of a booster.

This ICU's head says she fears things will deteriorate even more with the Omicron variant already detected in Germany.

We are extremely concerned she says we fear December, January and February and believe things will become a lot more difficult.

The State Department has warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Germany as the country struggles to contain the latest wave of infections.

Germany has seen massive COVID-19 infection rates for weeks now. And a lot of those patients are now winding up in ICUs like this one, and it's

driving Germany's otherwise very robust healthcare system to the brink.

So bad that the German military has been called up to fly patients out of hard hit areas.

One reason for that disastrous numbers experts say despite having scientist Angela Merkel as its Leader, Germany has some of the lowest vaccination

rates in all of Western Europe.

Anti-vax groups are extremely strong here and a recent study found that infection rates are high in strongholds of Germany's ultra-right wing AFD

Party, which opposes measures to combat the pandemic.

While the government has now made booster shots widely available, medical professionals are calling for more drastic measures.

TOBIAS KURTH, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC HEALTH, CHARITE BERLIN: I'm afraid we have to go into lockdown, hopefully a heart short lockdown with a clear

vision what to do after.

PLEITGEN: And, of course, Germany is about to get a new government. Angela Merkel on Tuesday is going to meet with the incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz

and he has specifically not ruled out a lockdown for Germany, especially as the Omicron variant is looming in the midst of the devastating outbreak

here in Germany.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


NOBILO: Tear gas is again wafted through the streets of Sudan's capital city, a little more than a month since the takeover that put the military

in full charge of the country. The latest confrontations came earlier today during protests in the capital Khartoum. A civilian group said 43 people

have been killed since the shift in power. Most recent victim was a protester who died after being injured during demonstrations last week.

Activist groups are using social media to encourage the marches against military rule.

NATO leaders have been meeting today, discussing concerns about the Russian troop build up on the Ukrainian build up. Officials are in Latvia, where

the country's minister of foreign affairs is calling for NATO and the E.U. to send a clear signal to Moscow.


Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has no plans to invade Ukraine but that he'd view any NATO missiles placed as a red line threat.

Usually those in charge of the U.K. secret intelligence service tried to avoid becoming the center of the tension. But now, it's time for change.

Britain's spy chief has given his first major public speech since becoming the head of MI6. And here's why -- he needs public support, especially in

the tech industry.


RICHARD MOORE, CHIEF OF MI6: We are opening up our mission problems to those with talent and organizations that wouldn't normally work with

national security. Unlike Q in the Bond movies, we cannot do it all in house. I cannot stress enough what a sea change this is in MI6's culture,

ethos and way of working.


NOBILO: And he says artificial intelligence could revolutionize geopolitics over the next decade and the countries able to master it first

will likely get the upper hand.

For Richard Moore, one of the biggest threats comes from China.


MOORE: Chinese intelligence officers seek to exploit the open nature of our society, including through the use of social media platforms to

facilitate their operations. We're concerned by the Chinese government's attempt to distort public discourse and political decision making across

the globe.


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

Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't saying whether or not he'll run for re-election in 2024. Political reforms adopted last year gave him two more

chances to stay in the Kremlin. While he's not revealing his own decision, curiously, he says U.S. President Joe Biden would be right to seek another

term as U.S. president.

Far right pundit Eric Zemmour says that he's in the running to become the next French president. He's the top contender to challenge Marine Le Pen, a

more established far right figure. Polls show the current French President Emmanuel Macron winning a second term. But many see this election as a test

of the strength of Europe's far right.

In New Zealand, the main opposition party has selected a new leader. Christopher Luxon formerly headed the country's national airline, and now,

after just one year in parliament, he'll stand against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the 2023 election.

Now in Australia, a stark new report on the sexual violations illustrates the wide ranging threats women in parliament are facing. It says more than

60 percent of the Australian female parliamentarians have experienced sexual harassment. Compare that to the national average of 39 percent for


The Australian Human Rights Commission released these findings in the past day, on Tuesday. The report was commissioned by the government earlier this

year after a former staffer's rape allegation sparked nationwide protests. The country's Sex Discrimination Office says the report found a lack of

clear accountability.


KATE JENKINS, AUSTRALIAN SEX DISCRIMINATION COMMISSIONER: This conduct is often dealt with as a political problem rather than as a people issue. As a

result, we heard that people are often punished for reporting misconduct, while others are protected, rewarded, or even promotion for engaging in

misconduct. There is also a worryingly low level of reporting indicating that it's not safe to speak. Only 11 percent of people who experienced

sexual harassment in a parliamentary workplace reported their experience.


NOBILO: Fear of speaking out is evident in witness statements, with many participants talking about the boys club culture. The report highlighted

numerous comments, including this one. Quote: It is a man's world and you're reminded of it every day. Thanks to the looks up-and-down you get to

the representation in the parliamentary chambers to the preferential treatment politicians give senior male journalists.

Another writing: I thought it was normal to tell people they should avoid certain people at events. I thought it was normal to tell people how to

take alcohol to remain safe. Now that I look back on it, that's insane.

Another warned the younger women coming in are like fresh meat and challenges.

So, what's the response been from the government?

The Australian prime minister had this to say.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Like anyone who works in this building, I find the statistics that are presented there, of course,

appalling and disturbing. I wish I found them more surprising.


NOBILO: The report made 28 recommendations including better female representation, new alcohol policies, and the creation of a new human

resources office. We'll keep you updated on whether those recommendations are adopted.

One of the world's most feared, feared guerilla groups, once upon a time, Colombia's FARC rebels have now been removed from the U.S. terrorism black

list. Coming up, we'll see what that means for the former fighters and for the people of Colombia who live through decades of war.

And not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they wear the pride of a nation. Rihanna takes the momentum's new role in Barbados.



NOBILO: The United States made a big change to the list of terrorist organizations five years after a peace accord ended one of the world's

longest running insurgencies. Today, it delisted the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia better known as the FARC. The former rebel group

disarmed and disbanded after the peace deal ended its 52-year war with the Colombian government. It turned to politics instead, forming its own party.

Yet some FARC rebels never really gave up the fight, they nearly rebranded and continue to fuel violent conflict across Colombia. So, when the U.S.

removed FARC from the terror blacklist, it added two of the armed dissident groups to the list.

We want to talk more about why the U.S. took these steps and what impact they'll have on the ground in Colombia.

Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is reporting from Caracas and CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the U.S. State Department.

Stefano, let's begin with you. This move comes five years on from the peace deal being signed. What is the significance in terms of timing and conflict


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: I think, Bianca, this delisting gives two messages in terms of why this is happening now. The first message is that

there is a new president in the White House and that this administration is fully compromised with success of the peace agreements. For the last four

years under the presidency of Donald Trump, every time we would know about Colombia in terms of U.S. foreign policy was in relation to the war on

drugs and the need to produce the amount of cocaine that is produced in the country.

The White House is choosing to change to change the tone and to really send a strong message that the prioritization -- the priority should be to

implement the peace agreement. It also gives very strong message right now in Colombia. We are approaching an electoral year in the country. We're

going to have elections in May to elect the new president.

So, candidates and we already more than a dozen local politicians that expressed their intention to run for president next year. They'll know the

White House supports will be to those who will be most vocal about supporting the peace agreement and implementation that's the keyword, the

implementation of the peace agreement, Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Kylie, and this move will enable U.S. officials to work with FARC members and representatives. What do you think the U.S. is hoping to

gain from being able to do that?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think generally speaking, the Biden administration is looking to shore up its relationship

with Colombia by making this move, right? This is something that Colombian officials have been pressing the U.S. government to do for years.


It's something that the Biden administration is following through and actually doing for them so that is seen as a positive single -- signal, I

should say by Colombian officials.

I don't think it's about one or another member, former member of the United States who can be in touch with. It's more about the overall relationship,

particularly as you see the influence of China in the region. The United States really discuss want to make sure its relationship with Colombia

stays as tight as possible.

I also think the flip side is that this is a recognition of reality, I think you would hear State Department officials say there was a 2016

agreement and so doing this now is a little bit late but better late than never.

As you noted in your introduction there, there are two rebel groups who are lead by former FARC commanders who are put on the foreign terrorist list

adds it was taken off. It's a reflection that the FARC isn't the overall group that should be the foreign terrorist organization, but these smaller

groups that have created in the just the last few years are the ones that should really be on the list.

NOBILO: And, Stefano, the ex-FARC commander, Timochenko, has claimed recently he has a deepening sense of grief and shame from FARC's decades of

political violence in Colombia by talking assassinations, bombings, kidnappings. How is the group actually perceived by Colombians today?

POZZEBON: Not well, frankly, Bianca. The president's of the FARC -- former FARC have evolved into political party and their presence in Congress is

guaranteed by the peace agreement but in the latest legislative election in 2018, the only got about 40,000 votes for both the Senate and the lower

house, the chamber of the representatives. They would not have representation in Congress were it not for the close of peace agreement.

At the same time, I think it's worth -- I'm picking up what Kylie was saying from Washington the Department of State might recognize this has

come in a little bit too late but better late than never. I think that these -- the list it sends a clear message to everybody who was involved in

the peace agreement that there are significant benefits. Concrete benefits from signing up for peace.

We're talking about thousands of former combatants, for example, that were not allowed to open. Things as simple as a bank account in Colombia because

their name was still listed as part of a criminal organization according to the U.S. department of state. So, this is the best success card that a

former FARC leader can go back to former combat and people are still in combat saying that embracing peace and show some real benefits. That's the

best way to try supporting implementation of the peace agreement at a moment where peace is on the back foot in Colombia. The number of killings

and massacres have been rising, especially in the country side. Analysts and experts have been urging them the administration of President Ivan

Duque to do more to protect FARC combatants and to protect the respect of civil rights and human rights in the countryside.

So, I think this is a very concrete step that is perceived in Bogota and in the rest of Colombia -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Stefano Pozzebon in Caracas and Kylie Atwood in D.C. -- thank you both. Great team. Appreciate it.

A German court issued a landmark ruling. The first in the world to recognize crimes against the Yazidi people as genocide. An Iraqi man who is

a former member of ISIS was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of enslaving a Yazidi girl in 2015 and chaining her up outside

where she died in scorching heat.

The court ruled he was involved in a wider campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Yazidi people. ISIS militants persecuted the

Kurdish-speaking minority in Iraq and Syria for years, killing and enslaving thousands.

Next, pride and progress. A major victory for the LGBTQ community in Botswana. Details on the high court ruling that will change people's lives.



MIA MOTTLEY, BARBADIAN PRIME MINISTER: On behalf of a grateful nation BUT even prouder people, we, therefore, present to you the designee for

national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty. May you continue to shine like a diamond.


NOBILO: Barbados may have cut ties with the queen of England, but it's found a new role for reigning princess. As you just heard, Rihanna has been

officially honored as the national hero there. The singer and entrepreneur has long been a culture ambassador for the country. Now, she takes on the

new title as Barbados becomes a republic. Rihanna is one of the best- selling musicians of all time and also pioneer in the beauty industry breaking color barriers with her hugely successful Fenty line.

And from a champion of diversity to signs of change elsewhere.

LGBTQ campaigners in Botswana are celebrating a decision by the country's top court, unanimously upholding a ruling that decriminalizes same-sex

relationships. The court said making same sex relations illegal goes against the constitution by violating people's dignity, freedom, and

equality. Before 2019, gay sex was punishable by up to seven years in prison in Botswana. As you can see, it remains criminalized in a large

number of other nations, including a few where a conviction can get the death penalty. But activists hope the decision can inspire similar change

in other places.

Thanks for joining us tonight. You can catch me on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook. I am everywhere. You can stay up to date at See you again tomorrow.