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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Proposed Prisoner Swap; Grain Exports Could Resume Soon; COVID-19's Origin Studies. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. Welcome to THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Tonight, CNN has learned that after months of eternal debate, the Biden administration has offered to exchange a convicted Russian arms dealer in

exchange to two American prisoners.

Then, a new coordination center to overseeing the export of Ukrainian grain opened in Istanbul. The first shipment is expected to leave that seaport

this week.

And two new studies take different approaches to studying the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they reached the same conclusion. Coronavirus

likely originated from a seafood market in Wuhan.

The Biden administration is offering a prisoner exchange with Russia in hopes of getting Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back on U.S. soil. The

White House says that both are being unjustly detained, according to sources speaking exclusively to CNN. The U.S. is offering to exchanging

them for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S.

The U.S. State Department has not directly confirmed that Bout is part of this deal. But the Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that the White

House is firmly committed to bringing Whelan and Griner back home. And he will meet with his Russian counterpart in the coming days, that will be

their first interaction since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Fred Pleitgen joins me from Berlin for more.

Fred, Viktor Bout is a convicted arms trafficker also known as the merchant of death. He is a big name. This would be a big move, which would

potentially mean Biden's overriding the Department of Justice.

What value would returning Bout to Russia offered Putin?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the Russians, Bianca, have always been adamant that they want Viktor Bout back,

obviously someone who the U.S. is a very dangerous arms dealer. They were quite proud when they got him extradited to United States after he was

detained in Thailand in 2008, and then bring him behind bars, simply because one of the reasons why he was convicted is for allegedly conspiring

to kill Americans.

Now, there have always been a certain rumor and hint that Viktor Bout was possibly or the things that he was doing as possibly benefiting the Russian

state and the Russian security services. And there were people in those organizations that were benefiting from that that might have been part of

that as well. He's obviously denied that he has always said that there's been no wrongdoing on his part and he maintains his innocence to this day,

the Russians for their part as well.

And if you hear what the Russians have been saying over the years, they have always said that they believe that arrest of Viktor Bout and his

conviction was an attack directly on the Russian state. So, the Russian state is clearly taking a stake in the future of Viktor Bout. And they've

also said that they want him back.

Some believed that possibly could be because some of Russia are afraid that he might talk too much when he's with U.S. jail, he might talk to

authorities there. It's unclear whether not that really is the case, but it certainly is the case. We know that Viktor Bout remains extremely important

to the Russians. And it's certainly somebody that they definitely would want back. That's why they want even if we're talking about both Brittney

Griner and Paul Whelan that the Russians would essentially get more from the U.S. than the U.S. would be getting from them -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Very intriguing. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. I wish we had more time to chat.

Now, Ukraine has dealt a blow to Russian forces in the south as it fights to retake occupied territory. Troops attacked and heavily damaged a

strategic bridge forcing Russia to close it to traffic. Ukraine is trying to disrupt critical supply lines but Russia insists the attack will not

impact its military operations.

Even as fighting rages, Ukraine is moving closer to grain exports will help ease this global food crisis. It's restarted work at Black Sea ports to

prepare for shipments under deal with Russia that was signed in Turkey last week. And Turkey is facilitating a process by opening a new center to

coordinate the exports of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain. The Turkish defense minister said that the facility has a special meaning for the whole


And CNN reporter Nada Bashir was in Istanbul for the opening of the new joint coordination center and she has this report.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A landmark agreement now ready to be enacted. Delegations from both Russia and Ukraine brought

together again in Istanbul, this time to mark the inaugural meeting of the joint coordination center.


HULUSI AKAR, TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER: The duty of the center is to ensure the safe transportation of grain and other supplies to be exported from

Ukraine. It has become necessary to establish a sea corridor for the safe delivery of more than 25 million tons of grain, leaving in Ukrainian ports

to the countries in need in the short period of time.

BASHIR: It's a deal which has taken weeks of negotiations to secure.

And with the framework set to remain in place for at least four months, the work of this unprecedented collaboration could prove decisive in

alleviating some of the pressures of the global food crisis.

And you can see the media storm behind me, that's because the center here at the joint coordination center is set to be the heartbeat of the grain

export initiative, bringing together representatives from Turkey, the United Nations. But crucially, from both Russia and Ukraine to oversee the

export of grain and other vital agriculture goods through the Black Sea. The real question now is in particular whether the Russian Federation will

commit to the framework outlined in this agreement.

But trust in Russia's intentions in the Black Sea is tenuous. Just a day for the deal was signed and assemble on Friday, Russian forces launched an

attack on the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa, raising concerns over the viability of the agreement.

Now, Ukraine says it is placing its trust in Turkey and the United Nations.

FREDERICK KENNEY, U.N. INTERIM COORDINATOR, BLACK SEA GRAIN INITIATIVE: Well, I can say that all parties here have expressed their commitment to

making this a reality. I think that's demonstrated by the fact that all parties had a very senior person alive here on extremely short notice.

BASHIR: Are you confident that Russia will commit?

KENNEY: I'm confident that we will have a successful initiative, yes. We are going to work very hard.

BASHIR: According to the Ukrainian government, work is now underway to find safe corridors from three of Ukrainians black sea ports. And it's no

shortage of urgency, they see the first shipments could leave Ukraine by the end of this week.

Nadia Bashir, CNN, Istanbul.


NOBILO: Russia's war on Ukraine is sending energy prices soaring across Europe. Moscow has just cut its exports of natural gas through the Nord

Stream pipeline to just 20 percent of the line's capacity. And that sent gas prices up in the past two days. And electricity prices on Wednesday hit

a record high too.

It comes a day after E.U. countries agreed to cut gas consumption by 15 percent to ensure enough energy to get through the winter and France and

Spain are now helping fellow you countries with this demand for gas. Spain's prime minister made this offer in Poland.


PEDRO SANCHEZ, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Spain is a country that shows some solitary. It's a responsible country and as I said

to Prime Minister Morawiecki, member states and the European Commission will give everything and we consult that Europe is not Putin's energy



NOBILO: Soaring prices aren't just hitting Europe. America's Central bank has just taken another dramatic step to cool rampant inflation in the

United States. The Federal Reserve boosted its benchmark interest rate by three quarters of 1 percent the second time in two months.

Here's how U.S. markets reacted to the news. The Fed is hoping to stop inflation which rose more than 9 percent in June compared to the same month

last year. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that he doesn't think that the U.S. is in a recession, but curing inflation may bring some pain.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE: We're highly attentive to inflation risks, determined to take the measures necessary to return

inflation a 2 percent longer run goal. This process is likely in the period of below trend economic growth and some softening and labor market

conditions. But such outcomes are likely necessary to restore price stability and to set the stage for achieving maximum employment and stable

prices over the longer run.


NOBILO: One of the major unanswered questions throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been, how did it start? Two new studies published this week we

can put a different approaches have come to the same conclusion. They believe the source of the outbreak is most likely from Huanan seafood

market in Wuhan, China.

You remember, Wuhan is where the first case was reported. The studies were published Tuesday in the Journal Science. The author of both say they can't

disprove a theory that originated with a lab leak, but that they found evidence stemming from animals has close together at the market.

And let's bring in Robert Garry, the coauthor of both of those studies to discuss more.

Welcome to the program, sir.



NOBILO: So why the change in theory now? What did this new evidence about etiology of the virus tell you?

GARRY: It's not really a change, most viral or just how just going to look at this question for over two and a half years now. I believe that it was a

natural virus. It came from animals to people.

But we did in the two new studies to approaches to look at this question again. We did a special analysis. We look at the early cases from the city

of Wuhan. And it turns that they all clustered very tightly around this Huanan market.

And then we look at the market itself it, and we look at samples that have been taken when the market was closed down and found that they all

clustered pretty much around one corner of the market, the southeast corner of the market. This turns out to be the exact location where wildlife was

sold, live animals carrying the SARS coronavirus were all clustered in this one part of the market.

So, we are pretty confident that this is how the pandemic started, how the virus first pulled over to people in the market and then into the

surrounding community. It was a small community during the month of December. And then it went farther out into the city of Wuhan, and then

unfortunately, to the world at large where we have this major pandemic.

NOBILO: Where did the data from the initial spread of the virus come from that you've used? Was it provided by the Chinese authorities?--

GARRY: We actually collected data from a number of sources. Some of it did it come from the original Chinese studies. But, you know, we collected data

from the Internet, from Google maps with and from pictures that were taken in Wuhan. So, a lot of different sources went together to corroborate all

the data that we put through these two papers.

NOBILO: And if we presume based on this new evidence and as you say what virologist have said from the beginning by and large, that COVID-19 did

originate in this corner of the market, how does that help disease surveillance and prevention going forward knowing that for sure?

GARRY: Well, it focuses our attention on the wildlife trade, on the trade of wild animals that can carry infectious diseases like the SARS

coronavirus 2. We know that we need to better regulate that trade, to make sure that handling and the farming and traveling of these animals is done

in a safe way. It's so that we don't have exposure people to infectious agents like SARS-CoV-2.

NOBILO: And, obviously, you are scientist yourself a professor. Naturally, the theories pertaining to COVID-19 and its origins have become highly

charged and politicized. It's a source of global tensions. What would your message be perhaps to politicians, people that have banded about a lot of

those in light of this new evidence?

GARRY: Well, let's take a look at the data and examine very closely. It's not really compatible with the virus having leaked from a lab or having

being bioengineered or anything with the theories that are out there the origins of the virus. Let's focus on the most likely point where the virus

emerge in to the population, focus on that, you know, try to avoid the politics and all the conspiracy theories and the like that are

unfortunately, they've been brought into play in the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

NOBILO: Sage advice. Robert Garry, author of the Science Journal studies, thank you so much for joining us.

GARRY: My pleasure.

NOBILO: Now, more than 3,500 people have been diagnosed with monkeypox in the United States. One of those was a pregnant woman, that is according to

a CDC. They say that the woman has delivered her baby, despite the risk, it doesn't appear that the newborn was infected. They baby was given protected

antibodies and the CDC says that both mom and baby are doing well now.

Next, more than a decade on the Arab spring, Tunisia find itself at a new crossroads in history. It isn't about to take a dangerous turn.



NOBILO: It was the birthplace of the Jasmine Revolution, but in the year since, how much of Tunisia has truly flourished, and how much do people

feel has gone to see?

The question is in the spotlight as Tunisia faces new upheaval. The protests over a new Constitution to give sweeping powers to the country's


He insists that he will not become a dictator. The critics already have their doubts.


KAIS SAIED, TUNISIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We will continue to build Tunis that it becomes like it was once and an even better than it

once was.

AHMED NEJIB CHEBBI, HEAD, NATIONAL SALVATION FRONT (through translator): This board has shown once again that it lacks integrity and impartiality.

Figures prevented are falsified.


NOBILO: Add to this, slow economic growth, rising unemployment and declining public services and the one time success story of the Arab Spring

maybe the start of a difficult new chapter.

For more, let's bring in Sarah Yerkes, senior fellow in Carnegie's Middle East program, and she joins us from Washington, D.C.

Welcome to the program, Sarah.


NOBILO: So, Tunisia was one of the leading lights of the Arab spring. And, briefly, for our viewers, can you explain how we got here?

YERKES: Certainly, Tunisia had done very well at building political institutions, building the backbone of a democracy over the past decade but

they failed to address the economic challenges the country was facing. The president, Kais Saied, who was elected in 2019 seized on the economic

challenges along with the pandemic and a real dissatisfaction amongst the public to seize power and a sort of self coup almost a year ago today on

July 25, 2001.

NOBILO: And the referendum that took place, a low turnout, the referendum to accept the draft constitution giving the president these sweeping

powers. The low turnout saw confusion, as surely people are complacent about a return to democracy --

YERKES: Absolutely, the low turnout is about less of a third of the public came out to vote in the referendum. That is in large part because people

were angry about the entire process. Almost the entire political opposition, civil society groups, they all decided to boycott the process.

They felt that even participating or voting no would be giving legitimacy to a program that they thought was absolutely not legitimate.

So, it's not that Tunisians are complacent, as you said. In fact, they are angry and frustrated and do not know what to do. They don't know how to

respond to this. They thought going to the ballot box and actually voting in the process would legitimize something that in their minds was

absolutely not legitimate.


NOBILO: That's very interesting. And now, it's always an alarming signal if the leader has to ensure that he will not become a dictator. The

president has expanded his powers. What are the implications of that likely to be for the people in democracy?

YERKES: I think at this point, it is clear that President Saied is a dictator. Even before the constitutional referendum, he already gathered

all the powers at hands. He's gotten rid of checks and balances, and this Constitution is absolutely a page out of the dictators playbook.

Again, he has every single piece of power. There is no way to remove the president in this Constitution. He's allowed to extend his powers and

definitely. It is dangerous for democracy.

The constitution does still allow for the same freedoms that were there in the 2014 constitution. We will see if Saied keeps up with the bargain. If

he allows people to protest, if he allows civil society organizations to operate, but so far, he has been cracking down on the opposition. It is not

a good sign going forward. He will let this opposition actually opposite operate.

NOBILO: Did he have support from his own government and taking this course of action and expanding powers?

YERKES: So, he is actually an interesting figure in that it does not have a political party. He operates as an independent. The government he had in

place before, there was a democratically elected parliament, a prime minister who he had handpicked, but very quickly fell into infighting with.

So, when he took the seizure of power, it was against the wishes of parliament and the government. On day one, on July 25th, he fired the

government. He fired the parliament, froze the parliament and suspended them indefinitely.

So, he has not been supported by the government. He has since replaced them with his own loyalists, but the parties in parliament beforehand, with the

exception of a couple to have continued to support him, are in the opposition right now.

NOBILO: So, what is next for the Tunisian people and their politics? Who could be the alternative to the situation? Is it even possible to change at

this point? How did that happen?

YERKES: I think there still is reason for optimism. The fact that there is a vibrant civil society, a good portion of the Tunisian public cares about

the moxie wants to see them return to a democratic path.

As we know, 11 years ago, the Tunisian public that. They got rid of a dictator. They got who had ruled for 30 years. He had been in power for

three years. At this point, I think it's possible for society to come together and figure out a new path forward. The question is will they be

able to unite and do that?

NOBILO: Sarah Yerkes, it has been fascinating speaking with you. We'll have to check in with you again soon to see if there are any signs of

things happening there. Thank you so much.

YERKES: Thank you so much.

NOBILO: Now, let's take a look at the other key stories making international headlines today.

Protesters entered the Iraqi parliament building just a short time ago. There are supporters of a national cleric, whose rival had been nominated

to become prime minister. Iraq hasn't had a head of state or cabinet for 298 days. That is a new record.

Philippine state news says that five people have died and at least 64 have been injured in an earthquake. The 7.2 magnitude quake struck at the most

populous island on Wednesday. It damaged homes, schools, buckled homes and bridges and triggered landslides.

The number of wildfires in the EU so far this year is almost four times the average over the last 15 years. That is according to Copernicus, the EU

earth observation program. That startling program comes as wildfires continue to rage in some parts of Europe.

In Germany, officials say that fires are largely contained but that situation remains tense. Hundreds of firefighters are still in the

northeast of the country, as well.

On the other side of the Atlantic, it is also feeling the effects of this extreme heat. Forty million people and in the United States are under heat

alerts today. Many of them are in the Pacific Northwest. Experts say the region is under prepared for the temperatures, with many households in

Portland are without air conditioning.

In Colorado, this extreme weather took a different form, as the public fire department rescued to people who were trapped by rushing water under a

bridge. In St. Louis, Missouri, record rain has caused widespread flooding. Hundreds of people were rescued after they were left stranded on rooftops

or in their cars. At least one person was found dead and a flooded vehicle.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, you can't see nobody cars.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roads turned into rivers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the only road out of this area and it is impassable.


JIMENEZ: An interstate shut down.


JIMENEZ: And firefighters forced to make dozens of rescues, all as a record amount of rain fell in the St. Louis area in just a matter of hours.

CHIEF DENNIS JENKERSON, ST. LOUIS FIRE DEPARTMENT: We had approximately eight and a half feet of water that developed in a low lying area. We were

told by a civilian that there was a possibility of somebody in a car. Water was received. We have pulled a civilian out of a vehicle that has passed.

JIMENEZ: Others went scrambling for shelter.

PAUL CIARAVOLO, ST. LOUIS AREA RESIDENT: I heard thunder early this morning. I didn't think much of, it went back to sleep. A couple hours

later, just heard some water coming into the apartment. I woke up and there was a couple feet in and just keep going up.

JIMENEZ: From midnight to 7:00 a.m., St. Louis got more than eight inches of rain. The previous record for one day was less than seven which happened

all the way back in 1915.

The surrounding St. Louis area saw anywhere from 6 to 10 inches overnight, according to the National Weather Service. Area officials urged everyone to

avoid travel as they say they were getting 911 calls of multiple people stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know how deep it is. It's simply not safe. It's not worth the risk.

JIMENEZ: Torrential rain left parts of the area almost unrecognizable, trapping cars on streets, flooding train tracks and homes.

Climate scientists say such turbulent weather is becoming more familiar as rising temperatures mean the atmosphere can hold more moisture, leading to

more rain and more extreme conditions, from deadly heat to destructive fires, dangerous floods.

It's a dynamic officials are increasingly trying to be prepared for across the country.

ALI ZAIDI, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISOR: Whether it's the extreme heat affecting tens of millions of Americans or the hurricanes, or

the droughts, this is the new normal. This is a climate emergency.

JIMENEZ: In St. Louis, the floodwaters are receding, but scientists say the chances of this happening again are only going up.

Omar Jimenez, CNN.


NOBILO: Thank you for watching. That was THE GLOBAL BREIF.

And "WORLD SPORT" is coming up. See you tomorrow.