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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Source: Zelensky Less Than Impressed With U.S. Promises; British PM Battling COVID Christmas Allegations; UK Court Rules Assange Can Be Sent To U.S.; Truck Crash In Mexico Kills At Least 55 People; Looking At The Nuances Of Joe Biden's Busy Week; Dignitaries Offer Praise At Senator's Funeral; Science Lessons In Space. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired December 10, 2021 - 17:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Alison Kosik.

Tonight, President Joe Biden says his conference for democracy will help to fight to keep autocracies at bay around the world.

British Prime Minster Boris Johnson is facing calls to resign over staff Christmas parties during last year's lockdown.

And Julian Assange can now be extradited to the U.S. That's after Washington won its appeal against an earlier ruling.

The U.S. president says there's an urgent need to shore up democratic institutions as autocracies gain power around the world. Today, Joe Biden

closed out the first annual White House summit for democracy. He says there have been valuable agreements made on voting rights, technology,

partnerships and tackling climate change. And he says it will take a global effort to push back against authoritarianism.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And though each of our nations faces unique challenges and many of the specific circumstances are

different, the threat we face and the solutions we seek have a common antecedent. This is not a struggle of anyone facing it alone; it's all of


And the commitments we've made to ourselves, to our own people, to one another will not only strengthen our own democracies by pushing back

against autocracies fighting corruption and promoting human rights for all people -- this is going to help seed the fertile ground for democracy to

bloom around the world.


KOSIK: The U.S. sees Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine as an example of autocracy pushing up against democracy.

For months, Russian forces have gathered near the border with weaponry, tanks and missiles. The Pentagon saying there have been increases of troops

in recent days. Intelligence experts warn Russia could be planning an invasion as soon as next month. Russia denies any intention to enter

Ukraine, but the U.S. isn't taking the threat lightly.

President Biden offering Ukraine help with military aid and threatening tough sanctions against Moscow. We're learning that Ukraine's president

doesn't believe the U.S. promises are enough to stop the threat from Russia. The U.S. and Ukrainian leader spoke on the phone Thursday.

Matthew Chance tells us more about the call and the reaction.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, publicly, the Ukrainian government is thanking the U.S. for its support amid threats of

another Russian invasion. But behind the scenes, there are signs of some frustration.

On the recent call, President Biden gave his Ukrainian counterpart a rundown of his discussions with Vladimir Putin of Russia, including details

of tough sanctions that U.S. would impose on Russia if it invades.

But a Ukrainian official with knowledge of the call told CNN that President Zelensky of Ukraine was less than impressed, saying that Zelensky told

Biden he didn't believe perspective sanctions would deter Russia, that the Kremlin would have already factored in the risks.

According to the official, Zelensky told Biden that he would prefer sanctions up front with a delayed implementation and with the option of

rolling them back if Russia behaves.

Some frustration was also expressed on the call, apparently, about the slow pace of U.S. weapon shipments to Ukraine, the officials told CNN,

especially with a Russian invasion, according to U.S.'s own intelligence, potentially coming as early as next month.

And the official told CNN, there was some disappointment on the issue of NATO membership for Ukraine. President Biden assuring the Ukrainian

president that the Kremlin would not be given a veto on that process, but also telling him that Ukraine's membership of the western military alliance

would not happen before 2030 at the earliest.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kyiv.


KOSIK: British Prime Minster Boris Johnson finds himself increasingly embattled over the Christmas party scandal that's rocking his government. A

poll this week indicated more than half the British public think he should resign.

His cabinet secretary is investigating allegations that staffers held multiple holiday parties at Downing Street last year while the country was

in lockdown. Johnson has said he didn't know anything about them, but CNN confirmed he spoke at one of them. And his communications director

reportedly did it, too. The opposition Labour Party chief says conservatives should force Johnson to resign.


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Are they prepared to put up with this? He's not fit for office. He's not going to be fit for office. Are

they prepared to go through the degrading of themselves and their party to go out to the media, have to defend the indefensible for months to come or

are they going to actually have the courage now to challenge him and say you're not fit for office?


KOSIK: CNN's Scott McLean is following the prime minister's troubles for us in London. So, Scott, you know at the time Downing Street staff, they were

allowed to show up to work, but indoor social gatherings were banned. And you know there's evidence piling up that this was a party, not business as



SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not unless business as usual Alison, means up to 50 people in a room drinking wine and cheese as was suggest by

the former press secretary in a leaked video earlier this week. Today, we also learned from a CNN affiliate ITV that the current press chief had

given a speech and given out mock joking awards to staff at that same event back in December. Downing Street though says that the prime minster has

full confidence in him.

It seems though that the public don't necessarily have full confidence that the prime minster, though, is telling the truth when he insists that no

rules were broken and that there was no party. A brand-new poll shows that 71 percent of Brits believe there was a party, including a majority of

people who voted conservative in the last election. And perhaps even more worrying for the prime minster is that two-thirds of people who responded

to that poll said that they do actually care whether or not there was a party at Downing Street against the rules.

The met police in London, they are less interested. They say they will not investigate despite calls just today from the mayor of London saying that

they should investigate. And this is not the prime minister's only scandal right now, either.

There are also -- he is also facing allegations that he lied about soliciting donations from a conservative party donor to pay for renovations

in the apartment he lives in at Downing Street. And of course, the prime minster with the emergence of the Omicron variant is also having to

convince a very COVID weary public in the UK to abide by new stricter COVID regulations at a time when there's plenty of evidence that he couldn't

convince his staff to follow the rules. Alison?

KOSIK: Yeah. There really seems to be this pile-on on to the prime minster. I know you're going to be watching all the twist and turn and we'll come

back to you for all the details. Thanks, Scott McLean.

MCLEAN: You bet.

KOSIK: Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange avowing to appeal to the British Supreme Court after another court ruled, he could be extradited

to the United States. The U.S. wants Assange on charges he illegally published secret government documents.

But as Nina dos Santos reports from London, his case pits national security against freedom of the press.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Julian Assange's supporters were in a defiant mood outside the UK's high court when two

senior judges ruled the WikiLeaks founder can be extradited to the United States.

STELLA MORIS, ASSANGE'S FIANCEE: They're imprisoning Julian on behalf of a foreign power which is taking an abusive, vindictive prosecution against a

journalist, and this is what it's about.

DOS SANTOS: The 50-year-old is facing 18 charges, most from the Espionage Act related to his role in the dissemination of classified U.S. military

documents more than a decade ago. If convicted, he could be handed a sentence of up to 175 years.

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: It's a disgrace, it's a threat to journalists.

DOS SANTOS: Central to the case, whether Assange is a journalist or more of a hacker. The U.S. initially charged him in 2019 with helping his source,

the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack into government computers. Since then, he's been held in a maximum-security

prison in London.

ASSANGE: How sweet it is.

DOS SANTOS: Before that, he sought diplomatic asylum in Ecuador's tiny embassy in the capital since 2012. Avoiding questioning and extradition by

Swedish authorities. The sexual misconduct allegations there, ones that were eventually dropped but that he claims were politically motivated. He

even made his way into the Trump story.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Hillary Clinton documents, released today by WikiLeaks.

For his fiance, the mother of two of his children, an extradition would set a chilling precedent for freedom of speech, and she's vowed to appeal.

MORIS: Julian represents the fundamentals of what it means to live in a free society, of what it means to have press freedom, of what it means for

journalists to do their jobs without being afraid of spending the rest of their lives in prison.

DOS SANTOS (on camera): Incurring to their decision, judges here cited U.S. assurances that Assange's mental health would be protected in America. And

an offer for him to serve at a portion of any sentence in his native Australia. In doing this, they reversed an earlier decision made by a lower

court to block the extradition on the grounds that Assange may be at a greater risk of suicide if held in U.S. custody.

(voice-over): What happens now, the case will go back to the courts for more legal wrangling. After that, Britain's home secretary will have the

final say.

All this means while Assange's case will continue to divide opinion and question the international boundaries of free speech, his many years of

confinement will continue for now.

Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.



KOSIK: At least 55 people are now dead after a truck crash in Southern Mexico. Officials are saying that a trailer full of Central American

immigrants -- migrants overturned with at least 160 people crammed inside. This happened Thursday in Chiapas. Migration is very common there from

countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Violence, corruption and unemployment are just some of the reasons why so many feels like they have

no other choice than to make the dangerous journey to the U.S. border. These journeys are often organized by smugglers who will pack migrants

inside of trucks with little consideration for their safety.

British officials say the country faces a deeply concerning situation as the Omicron variant of coronavirus spreads rapidly across the country. UK

health security agency says Omicron is doubling every two to three days in England and is expected to become the dominant strain by mid-December. The

agency held an emergency meeting Friday. Officials say more than 1 million people could be infected in the UK by the end of the month. They warn that

without the booster dose, the vaccine is much less effective against the Omicron variant.

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

South Africa will rollout Pfizer booster shots next month after a surge in daily cases. While evidence suggest Omicron spreads much faster than other

variants, one top scientist says there are no red flags about its severity and that on the whole, the cases have tended to be milder.

Infections are rising in Australia. The state of New South Wales has reported more than 500 new cases. Its highest daily count in two months.

Official says one reason for the jump is the increase in holiday parties at pubs and clubs. Still, hospitalizations remain low given the high rate of


Singapore is reporting its first locally transmitted case of Omicron variant. Authorities say a fully vaccinated woman working at the airport

there got infected and other cases are likely. Singapore had previously detected three other cases, all of them in overseas travelers.

The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the strictest abortion law in the nation to stand for now. But in a ruling Friday, it did agree to permit legal

challenges. The court ruled that abortion providers in the state of Texas can sue over the law that essentially bans abortions after just six weeks

of pregnancy, with no exception for rape or incest. That's a very narrow victory for abortion rights advocates. But they were hoping the court would

block the law while lawsuits are underway. Meantime, anti-abortion activists are celebrating a separate decision by the court to dismiss a

challenge to the law from the U.S. Justice Department.


JOHN SEAGO, LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, TEXAS RIGHT TO LIFE: We did not want the White House to kind of have the kind of the right to just go to any state

that they want and challenge their pro-life laws. And so, that was a really important victory, and then the court also pared down the legal attack from

the abortion industry on Texas' pro-life law.


KOSIK: A winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize is slamming U.S. tech giants accusing them of fueling toxic sludge on social media. Filipino

journalist and former CNN correspondent Maria Ressa accepted the award today along with her co-laureate Dmitry Muratov, editor in chief of an

independent newspaper in Russia.

They were recognized for their fight for freedom of expression. Ressa, cofounder of the news site Rappler, blasted social media companies without

mentioning any by name accusing them of allowing a virus of lies to infect the world, pitting people against each other and setting the stage for the

rise of authoritarian regimes. Ressa said the companies are biased against facts and make money off hate and fear.


MARIA RESSA, NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE: Without facts, you can't have truth. Without truth, you can't have trust. Without trust, we have no shared

reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with the existential problems of our times -- climate, coronavirus. Now the battle

for truth.


KOSIK: China is celebrating a diplomatic victory in Latin America as it continues a decades' long campaign to isolate Taiwan. Nicaragua switched

allegiances, breaking diplomatic ties with Taiwan, as it declared there's only one legitimate government representing all of China. Chinese and

Nicaraguan officials signed a joint communique today in Tianjin. The deal leaves Taiwan with only 14 countries that officially recognize it. Taiwan

says it regrets Nicaragua's decision that vows to continue building alliances elsewhere.


Just ahead, the assault on democracy tops the U.S. president's list of challenges. We'll bring you expert insight on what Joe Biden is doing about



KOSIK: As we reported at the top of the show, it's been a busy week for U.S. President Joe Biden who's facing issues at home and abroad. He first -

- he told the Bucharest Nine, a group of countries on the eastern edge of NATO about his commitment to deescalating the border crisis between Russia

and Ukraine and also hosted the first White House democracy summit. A short time ago, Mr. Biden acknowledged the U.S. has its own problems to solve.


BIDEN: The United States is committed to strengthening our democracy at home and to work with parties around the world -- around the globe to prove

that democracies can deliver for people on issues that matter most to them.

Here at home, that means working to make real the full promise of America, including by enacting both the Freedom to Vote act and the John Lewis

Voting Rights advancement act. Because what's true around the world is also true in the United States -- the sacred right to vote, to vote freely, the

right to have your vote counted, is the threshold liberty for democracy.


KOSIK: I want to check in now with CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali, the former director of the Nixon Presidential Library. Thanks for your time



KOSIK: Let's first start about -- on this two-day summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden. Essentially, you know he's looking to rescue

democracy. He's looking to foster democracy around the world. Critics say it kind of sting of irony a bit here because, you know, they question, who

is the U.S. to take the lead on democracy when its own democracy is under assault?

NAFTALI: Well, look, if you - if one looks at the history of the United States efforts in the cold war, the United States spent time propagating

and pushing and supporting an image that it couldn't meet yet in this country when we had the Jim Crow south. That doesn't mean that powerful

countries should not exercise global leadership and try to encourage objectives and the strength of ideas that they may not have 100 percent or

even 80 percent of in their own country. So, exercising global leadership can involve pushing to achieve goals that you yourself haven't yet


KOSIK: Understood, understood. So, I'm curious what you think though, what's expected to actually come out of this gathering? Anything concrete?

I mean can the summit actually force meaningful change, especially from leaders you know accused by human rights group of harboring authoritarian

tendencies, you know countries like Philippines, Poland, and Brazil?


NAFTALI: Well, I have been thinking about a similar meeting, not exactly the same, but similar meeting that occurred in the 1970s in Helsinki, which

included, actually, Soviet and Soviet Eastern European participants. And one of the objectives in the meeting in Helsinki was the defense and

propagation of human rights in Europe. It took 14 years for that to happen.

And many of the activists in favor of democracy and self-determination in Eastern Europe were very grateful to the Helsinki Final Act for forcing

some change at home, but it was gradual change. The people who are going to make a difference around the world are people who live in the countries

where democracy is under threat. Those are the folks that are going to be fighting, and I hope winning in the struggle for self-determination, for

democracy, for liberty.

What the United States and its allies are trying to do is put a finger on the scale to help them, and I wouldn't expect meaningful immediate change.

This is a way of trying to slow the movement in the wrong direction and show activists around the world, activists for democracy, that they have

allies in powerful places.

KOSIK: Let's turn to tensions between Russia and Ukraine. You know, President Biden spent some time confidence building on phone calls with the

Bucharest Nine, separately with the Ukrainian president. And you know Zelensky did you know certainly made it clear privately that he kind of was

left empty with what we he heard during this phone call as far as a lot of unsolved issues, including the timing of sanctions, the delivery of weapons

that were supposed to have been delivered apparently at least a month ago. Was this just a lot of lip service from President Biden to the Ukrainian


NAFTALI: To the Ukrainian president. Well, we have to go back to the meeting with the Russian president. And I think the challenge right now for

the United States is to find a way to deter bad behavior by the Russians.

Barack Obama wasn't able to do it. Donald Trump wasn't able to do it. In fact, Donald Trump didn't even try. And now, President Biden is trying to

do it.

And so, to deter bad behavior by the Russians you have to find levers, you have to find vulnerabilities. And the president hoped that by threatening

economic sanctions, that that in some way might affect Putin's calculations. One of the things we don't - we don't know a lot of things.

One of the key things we don't know is why the Russians are clearly building up forces near the Ukrainian border. Is it again just to put

pressure? Is it again to distract the Russian people from the ravages of COVID which is getting worse there as it is in many parts of the world? Or

is it some kind of foreshadowing of an attack in the near future? We don't know. In fact perhaps even Putin himself doesn't know.

So, the United States is looking for a way to deter bad behavior. What's so interesting is that everyone expects Biden to do it on his own. I'm looking

for the Germans and the French and the rest of the European nations who have an even greater interest in the defense of Ukrainian sovereignty to

step up and do something. So, let's not just hope for Biden to do it. Let's see what the new chancellor of Germany has to say.

KOSIK: And we will all be watching with you.

Tim Naftali, historian -

NAFTALI: Thank you.

KOSIK: -- and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library.

Thanks so much for coming on the show today.

NAFTALI: My pleasure, Alison. Thank you.

KOSIK: A large explosion rocked a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon. Lebanese state media report the blast happened at a Hamas

warehouse filled with ammunition near the port city of Tyre. There are reports of a number of casualties. Lebanon hosts tens of thousands of

Palestinian refugees, most of whom live in camps in the country. Hamas maintains a presence at a number of those camps.

U.S. President Joe Biden was among the dignitaries today at the funeral for the late Senate majority leader and World War II hero Bob Dole. A military

honor guard carried Dole's casket into the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Mr. Biden praised his long-time Senate colleague as a man of his word,

who always sought the common good.

And actor Tom Hanks, who is starred in the World War II movie classic "Saving Private Ryan" spoke of Dole's heroic military service.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: When Bob Dole fulfilled his duty in that war, which burned up half the world, the cost he paid was a hard one for him to bear.

He lost the use of a limb and part of his once strong shoulders on a cold mountainside in Italy to an enemy that was trying to kill him.

They failed.



KOSIK: Senator Bob Dole died Sunday at the age of 98. His daughter told the mourners, he would never walk alone.

Coming up, students in China are learning about science from teachers in a different classroom. This one in zero gravity. We'll have that story next.


KOSIK: Students across China are experiencing a different form of remote learning. This time from space. Chinese astronauts from the country's under

construction space station taught students across China. The interactive class was broadcast on state television with the astronauts teaching

students science experiments conducted in the zero gravity.

They also gave students a tour of the space station, showing them where they live and work. Officially known as Taikonauts, they docked at the

space station back in September and will live in the module for six months. Their mission focuses on robotics and conducting a host of experiments with

the United States International Space Station set to retire in a few years. China's space station will become the only one in the earth's orbit.

That's all from THE BRIEF for you this week.

I'm Alison Kosik.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @alisonkosik.

And we'll see you again on Monday. Have a great weekend.