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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Gasoline Truck Explodes In Haiti; Nigerian Short-Shelf Vaccines; Future Of Cannabis In Europe. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired December 14, 2021 - 17:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF live from New York. I'm Alison Kosik in for Bianca Nobilo.

In today's briefing:

Dozens killed in Haiti after a tanker carrying gasoline exploded in a major city.

Then, 1 million COVID vaccines in Nigeria expired and need to be destroyed. We look at the impact distribution delays are having on getting jabs in


And Malta becomes the first European country to legalize cannabis. We break down which other countries may follow suit and why.

Haiti is now in mourning after a tanker carrying gasoline exploded in the country's second largest city, Cap-Haitien. It happened late Monday night.

At least 62 people were killed and medics are now overwhelmed trying to attend to all those hurt.

An official says the truck had stopped and was leaking fuel. People then gathered to collect it right before getting trapped in the flames.

As to why they took such a huge risk? The country has been facing a fuel shortage for months, caused by a mix of gang violence, government

incompetence and the coronavirus pandemic. It's just the latest tragedy in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, had it by one disaster

after the next in recent months.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann joins me live.

Patrick, you know, just -- you look what's happened there in the city of Cap-Haitien, they're going to need a lot of help just to get through this

tragedy. Are people who have been impacted by this latest event, are they getting the help they need?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they're not. The government there acknowledges hospitals are overwhelmed. They've asked people to donate

blood. The country's prime minister arrived earlier today to tour the area that looks like a bomb went off.

And NGOs we have been in touch with say they need donations, that there are dozens of people that are burned. They have not found all the dead bodies

and, of course, as you were saying just imagine the desperation when you have a large gas tanker like this leaking gasoline, clearly a very, very

dangerous situation. People run towards it rather than run away from it. Even though they know how dangerous this is because they hope they can

collect some gasoline.

And, of course, this killed not only those people who were trying to collect the gasoline, presumably to use for the cells and generators or the

cell to people because power is in such short supply right now in Haiti. And then people in the surrounding homes were killed. We're told many homes

in the area did burn down, and the firefighters it took them quite a while to bring it under control.

You look at the pictures, it's just devastating. This is only the latest tragedy to hit Haiti, a country that just this year saw a presidential

assassination, an earthquake that killed thousands, and then gang violence, which has led to kidnappings and led to fuel being cut off throughout much

of the summer and into the winter.

And so, many areas, they survived with very little gasoline. That's why some hospitals have been enduring power outages. Some doesn't help with

this situation.

So this is only the latest sign of how desperate people in Haiti are as this country approaches the brink, Alison.

KOSIK: It is just devastating. Those pictures are just incredible.

Patrick Oppmann, thanks very much for your reporting.

Belarus's former opposition leader who planned to run for president against dictator Alexander Lukashenko is now facing 18 years in a penal colony.

Forty-three-year-old blogger and YouTube activists Sergei Tikhanovsky was convicted of planning mass riots and sowing social hatred. He's one of

thousands of opposition activists imprisoned before and after Lukashenko's questionable re-election last year.

The U.S. and Europe have hit Lukashenko's government with strong sanctions. Tikhanovsky's wife who now leads the opposition from the outside the

country says the world needs to keep up the pressure.


SVETLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Democratic countries can't allow one dictator, you know, influence the minds of

leaders of Democratic countries. It's unacceptable. One dictator can't blackmail, you know, the whole of Europe. It's unacceptable. So, it's not -

- this fight is not about Belarusians only. It's about fight for values, and values are common for all of us.


KOSIK: On her husband's imprisonment, she told the journalist, we don't have time to cry.


After months and months of alarming development on the spread of COVID, finally some promising news about a pill that could drastically reduce

symptoms in people who become infected. Pfizer calls it a game changer. The pharmaceutical giant is seeking emergency use authorization in the United

States for its treatment called Paxlovid.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says it's potentially a lifesaver.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The good news about that is that the preliminary data showed

about an 89 percent protection from hospitalization or death if given within the first three days of symptoms. Now that the complete full final

data set are in, it's just as good if not better. So, that's really good news. So, it's holding up under larger number of people. So they're going

to be submitting that to the FDA and hopefully we'll get some action on that soon.


KOSIK: The news comes the a real world study in South Africa shows a two- dose regimen of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is 70 percent effective in stopping severe illness from the Omicron variant.

Good news is very much needed at the moment, as concerns about the variant deepen around the world. The World Health Organization says omicron is

spreading faster than any previous variant and has now been detected in 77 countries. In the UK, health officials say omicron cases are now doubling

there about every two days, mirroring the rapid increase seen in South Africa. In fact, omicron has taken such a foothold in the UK that the

government decided to remove all 11 countries from its red travel list.

Starting Wednesday, people arriving from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and nine other African nations will no longer need to quarantine in a government

approved hotel.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won parliament approval for his new plan "B" coronavirus restrictions today, but faced fierce backlash from his

own conservative party.

Salma Abdelaziz has details of the Tory revolt.



SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the biggest Tory rebellion against Boris Johnson since he took office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The noes to the left, 126.

ABDELAZIZ: And yet another blow to the prime minster's credibility after weeks of scandal. Nearly 100 conservative MPs, member of Johnston's own

party, voted against plan "B" coronavirus restrictions. The measures include extending mask mandates in most public indoor settings, mandatory

vaccines for NHS workers and most contentious, requiring COVID health passes to enter large public venues like nightclubs.

The UK health secretary said the measures are necessary to stem the tide of omicron.

SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: It's the fact that omicron hospitalizations are low, that means it is now the best time to act. We're

likely to see a substantial rise in hospitalizations before any measure is starting to have an impact. So there really is no time to lose.

ABDELAZIZ: But some Tories accused the government of overstepping, curbing civil liberties.

ANDREA LEADSOM, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: Just on the rules they're less authoritarian than other countries is truly appalling. That is not our

culture. That is not our history.

So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is a slippery slope, down which I do not want to slip. So I'm afraid I'm not going to be supporting these measures.

ABDELAZIZ: Despite the rebellion, the restrictions passed, but some warn they did not go far enough.

CAROLINE LUCAS, BRITISH GREEN MP: The government's mixed messaging has been incredibly unhelpful, telling people that a tsunami of omicron is

underway, but at the same time we can go on partying absolutely undermines that message.

ABDELAZIZ: To slow the surge of cases, Johnson expanded the nation's ambitious booster program.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Everyone age 18 and over in England will have a chance to get the booster before the New Year.

ABDELAZIZ: A rush of bookings crashed the government's signup website Monday and hundreds were seen waiting in long lines outside vaccination

centers. In total, about half a million people across the UK received their booster jabs in the 24 hour after the announcement. But the prime

minister's authority still being tested after accusations that multiple Christmas parties were held in Downing Street during lockdown last year.

Johnson has denied the allegations that COVID rules were broken but launched an internal investigation.

Johnson now fighting what UK officials say is a more transmissible variant of COVID-19 with little support from his own party.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


KOSIK: The omicron variant is also spreading rapidly in the European Union. The European CDC says there are now more than 2,000 cases there with

growing community transmission.


Here's how EU countries are responding. France is considering tightening controls for travelers from Britain. A government spokesperson says they

expect to decide in the coming days.

The Netherlands is extending social distancing restrictions through the Christmas holidays. Elementary schools will close a week early to keep

young children from infecting their older family members.

Italy has extended its state of emergency until March 31st, giving the government the ability to implement measures to contain the spread. They'll

also be imposing a five-day quarantine for unvaccinated travelers starting Thursday.

And Greece has just reported 130 deaths, its highest ever daily coronavirus death toll.

India's having trouble exporting its surplus of COVID-19 vaccines. The country's home to the world's biggest vaccine producer, which makes several

shots, including AstraZeneca's. The producer says it will cut the output in half until more orders come. Indian officials blame logistics problems

particularly in Africa, where the need for vaccines is great.

But last month, Africa's CDC said countries are struggling to distribute the doses they're getting, saying they have been receiving vaccines be

little notice and short shelf lives. And that is, quote, extremely challenging for countries planning vaccination campaigns.

That's why Nigeria is going to have to destroy 1 million doses that are now expired. That many shots won't get into arms in a country where less than 4

percent of adults have been fully vaccinated.

CNN's Larry Madowo explains.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The vaccines Nigeria were set to destroy were received from COVAX. That is the World Health Organization initiative

meant to deliver intervenes for free or at a low cost to low and middle income countries. And these vaccines arrived in the country just a couple

of months before they expired. Some of them had just a couple of weeks before they expired.

Nigeria is a huge country, about 200 million people. It could not get them in the arms of people all across the nation in time. This is not a problem

that's unique in Nigeria. Many of the African have had to destroy vaccines or see them expire before they can get them to the people that needed them.

And now, the World Health Organization downplaying how many actual vaccines have expired across the African continent. They say according to a press

briefing they gave on Tuesday that only about 910,000 vaccines have expired across 20 African countries. And the WHO as well as Nigeria is saying they

will need new vaccines coming into Africa to have longer shelf lives.

The problems are not unique to Nigeria because you see in African countries where they have problems with refrigeration capacity, logistical

challenges, sometimes even getting a vehicle to drive vaccines to some corners of the country, that takes time to arrange, and that's why vaccines

are expiring when so many African countries still have very low percentage of their population that are vaccinated.


KOSIK: Australia known for implementing some of the harshest COVID border measures is expanding its travel corridor. Currently, the country only has

a travel bubble system in place for New England and Singapore.

Selina Wang looks at the countries that have been added to the list.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Starting Wednesday, Australia will allow fully vaccinated travelers from South Korea and Japan to enter the country

without any quarantine. Australia is ending a pause on reopening plans, that which triggered by concerns over omicron.

In a joint meeting with South Korea's president, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that this re-opening is possible because of the two

countries' low death rates and high vaccination rates. The prime minster also added, quote, I know the more than 23,000 Australians with South

Korean ancestry will be looking forward to seeing their friends, their family and then being able to join together.

This reopening will also include skilled migrants and international students. Economists say that these groups are critical to the Australian

economy. Education is one of the Australia's largest exports while many sectors of the economy depend on the migrant workforce. For months now, the

prime minster has been pushing for the return of international students as a major milestone in the country's pathway back.

Tourists are still largely banned from entering Australia, and border restrictions differ from state to state. For instance, part of Australia

require some domestic travelers to quarantine in a government approved hotel while other states have few restrictions. This travel corridor with

South Korea and Japan come as Australia's travel bubble with New Zealand remains past.

South Korea has recently reported a record number of daily COVID-19 cases while Australia is dealing with outbreaks of the omicron variant in New

South Wales.

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


KOSIK: A former aide to Donald Trump could be a step closer to becoming the first White House chief of staff to face prosecution after leaving

office since Watergate.


House lawmakers are expected to approve a recommendation of criminal contempt charges against Mark Meadows for refusing to testify before the

committee investigating the January 6th Capitol Hill riot.

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

The United Arab Emirates has suspended talks with the U.S. on acquiring F- 35 fighter jets, citing technical requirements and costs. Washington says it is committed to the proposed sales with the two sides planning to meet

at the Pentagon later this week. U.S. concerns about Emirati adoption of Chinese 5G technology have held up the deal.

The Lebanese pound dropped on Tuesday to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar, trading at a rate of 20,000 to 1. It's lost more than 90 percent of

his value in the last two years, throwing hundreds of thousand of Lebanese into poverty.

In a new twist for Philippine politics, President Rodrigo Duterte has dropped out of the 2022 Senate race. He filed withdrawal paper just hours

after his preferred successor quit the presidential race. Duterte is barred from seeking re-election as president next year.

At last three people are dead following two explosions outside an airport in Cucuta, Colombia. Two victims were police officers who were inspecting a

suspicious package. Columbia's defense minister blames terrorist groups operating in the city which lies on the border with Venezuela.

Next, turning over a new leaf. Malta becomes the first country in the EU to legalize recreational pot, and it's leaving some lawmakers feeling out of



KOSIK: Welcome back.

The E.U.'s smallest state has just made a huge decision about its drug laws. Malta's parliament has approved the legalization of cannabis for

personal use, a first for the E.U. These people are clearly thrilled at the move, which could be the start of a wave of reform across Europe.

Germany recently announced the move to establish a regulated cannabis market. Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have signaled similar

moves. Cannabis in Netherlands is not officially legal, despite the country's infamous coffee shops. It's only tolerated by the government,

meaning it's effectively decriminalized. Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Czech Republic are among those that take a similar approach.

Malta's equality minister has praised the decision on the grounds of fairness and safety.


OWEN BONNICI, MALTESE EQUALITY MINISTER: What we did here in parliament is historical because it's the first time that we have managed to push forward

the legislation, which will do a number of good things.


First of all, it will stop us and follow the decriminalization of people who for a lot of time have been criminalized when they are not criminals.

So it will put an end to the criminalization of people who are not criminals. Secondly, we are going to give -- to curb drug trafficking by

making sure that people who make use of cannabis now have a safe and regularized way for where they can obtain cannabis.


KOSIK: And our Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin.

Fred, great to see you. So, talk us through what this will allow people to do in Malta. Why did they do it? Clearly, there are a lot of people who are

happy about this.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I was going to say, I really -- I really thought that video was quite interesting

of those people cheering. So, certainly, there do seem to be a lot of people in that -- in that country who really think this was a very good

decision. And it is quite interesting.

Looking at it more carefully you can really see that this law does encompass a lot. I mean, first of all, on the face of it, it doesn't seem

like very much. People are allowed to have seven grams of cannabis with them or -- or and they are allowed to grow four cannabis plants. They're

only allowed to do it in the comfort of their own home. They're not allowed to be seen from outside.

And also smoking cannabis or smoking weed in public is still something that's illegal in Malta. But essentially, what this policy is about, it's

quite interesting, because this is what they keep talking about, it's about minimizing harm.

Essentially what the Maltese government wants to do is quite apparently is they want to minimize harm. He want people to have good quality weed, take

away from criminal gangs that would sell drugs and make sure everything is somewhat regulated.

And what they've done is they're also creating a regulatory authority for the use of weed in a good way in that country.

And the other thing that they are doing is -- you can grow four plants in the comfort of your own home, or you can join a cooperative as well, and

those cooperatives are allowed to have 500 members. They have to be not for-profit, and you can buy from those cooperatives.

So they're also creating a system where they're trying to make sure that this is not something where people are going to make a lot of money off it.

They do want apparently the sale of this weed to remain fair. Also, it has to be 250 meters away from a school as well.

So they've clearly thought about this for a very long time, really thought this out. And what they're trying to do is trying to minimize the harm of

drug sales while at the same time obviously allowing people to enjoy a smoke -- Alison.

KOSIK: All right. So, Malta seems to be the trailblazer here. But what other countries could follow suit?

PLEITGEN: Well, it is -- it certainly seems to be something that, for lack of a better pun, that's gaining steam in Europe. You have Luxembourg that

also had a similar law that hasn't been passed by the parliament in Luxembourg, then the countries that you were talking about at the

beginning, the Netherlands, where it's about decriminalization, still illegal, but decriminalize. You have obviously the famous or infamous

coffee shops.

Portugal, by the way, also a country that has big decriminalization, has had that for a very long time. Now, the largest country in Europe by

population, Germany, has a new government now, has a new coalition, and they're talking about the same thing.

All three parties that are involved in the coalition here, they also want to decriminalize weed, and they want to set up shops here in Germany,

private shops, where cannabis that is of, as they put it, good quality, is then sold in those shops. So, that is something that could happen in

Germany fairly soon. And, obviously, you know, reporting from this country, having reported from this country for quite a while now, this is actually

something that in the election campaigns here in Germany was a pretty big topic and continues to be a pretty big topic.

And it certainly also seem as though it is something that this new coalition here in Germany that's now led by the social Democrats, the Green

Party in it as well, they could be getting on top of pretty quickly.

KOSIK: And yes or no, they'll be able to start lighting up this weekend?

PLEITGEN: Probably -- here in Germany?

KOSIK: Oh, in Malta.

PLEITGEN: In Malta. Yeah, I think a lot of people will be doing that fairly quickly. But in Malta, it has been not very restrictive for a while


KOSIK: Yeah.

PLEITGEN: So, certainly, I'm guessing a love people are going to be doing that this weekend. But really in Malta, having looked at this, it seems as

though they've thought this out for a long time. They really do seem to have a plan.

KOSIK: OK. Fred Pleitgen, thanks for walking us through all of that.

And while legalizing pot may still be up in the air in Germany, getting downtown is taking an unusual twist for tourists this week. Berlin

transport tickets made with -- get this -- edible cannabis oil, saying it wants to alleviate the stress of the Christmas rush.


The tickets are made from hemp and have no psychoactive ingredients, but they can be snacked on, after, of course, reaching your destination.


JANNES SCHWENTU, BERLIN TRANSPORT SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Of course, this is to be taken with a twinkle in your eye. We don't want to

take a position either way on cannabis, but we have used this topic to spread the message we actually wanted to which is during the stressful

Christmas period, take the bus or the underground.

We do make very clear that anyone who wants to use the ticket as an actual ticket, please only nibble on it or eat it after your journey, as if it has

a bite on it, it is no longer valid. It needs to be in its original packaging and afterwards, people can decide whether to keep it as a

souvenir or to eat it all up.


KOSIK: OK. Berlin Transport is known for its cheeky ad campaigns. This one is said to have been warmly received. I would imagine.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be back right after this.


KOSIK: Albert Einstein once said, anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new, and for a Blockchain trader selling NFTs, the new

form of commerce has led to a mistake he learned the hard way.

Max just sold this digital art work from a collection called Board Ape Yacht Club for about $2,800. The problem was, he spent to sell it for

$280,000. But he pushed the button too fast, and a buyer scooped it up. Oops.

I just wasn't paying attention, he told us. But the buyer sure was. It was quickly resold for $227,000.

That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I am Alison Kosik. Thanks for watching. See you soon.