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Taiwan Commissions First Combat Wing of F-16V Fighters; Deadly Toxins from Iraq's Oil Industry; British Columbia Declares State of Emergency Amid Floods; Cuban Activist Arrives in Spain; Deadly Protests in Sudan; Kyle Rittenhouse Trial; QAnon Shaman Gets Long Sentence. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired November 18, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello, and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us right from around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London.

Just ahead right here on CNN Newsroom. A record setting explosion of COVID cases in Germany. The fourth wave of the virus hitting the country with full force.

An e-mail purportedly from a missing Chinese tennis star has now led to growing concerns about her safety. Plus, the migrants on the border between Belarus and Poland now have shelter away from the cold. But what is next? Where will they go from here?

UNKNOWN: Live from London this is CNN Newsroom with Isa Soares.

SOARES: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the show.

Now the coronavirus rolls back to life here in Europe as leaders try to slow its growth with any and every restriction they can think of. Germany has just reported a record number of new COVID infections. More than 65,000 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

Part of what Chancellor Angela Merkel calls a dreaded fourth wave of the virus. Experts say Germany's low vaccination rates is to blame. Sitting at just 67 percent. One of the lowest in Western Europe.

Let's get more on this story. CNN's Cyril Vanier joins me live from Paris this morning. Good morning to you, Cyril.

I mean, Europe clearly becoming this global epi -- epicenter, Cyril for COVID in the number of cases, as well as fatalities continue to rise. Talk us through the measures that are being put in place.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Unfortunately, Europe now, again, once again, the epicenter. If you think back to two years ago, it feels like we've gone back full circle. With Europe now driving COVID from a global perspective. Now every country is taking new measures. The countries that are less

vaccinated are having to takes -- take stronger action sooner. Just last night, we heard about Belgium. They are asking their population to go back to working from home. Ireland earlier this week was declared a midnight curfew on the hospitality sector.

Austria of course made headlines earlier this week as well by imposing another lockdown, a stay-at-home order on the two million unvaccinated people. So, every country doing with they can. A lot of it dependent on just exactly how bad the situation is there.

Countries that are a little more vaccinated think France, Spain, Italy feel as if they have a little bit more time before they take more drastic measures. In France here they are not talking about a lockdown now or in the future is the quote of the government spokesperson.

And Germany, that number that you said, Isa, at the top of your show. Sixty-five thousand, 60 or 65,000 people infected daily. That number is just mind-boggling. If we had said that number a year ago it would've meant hospitals were full, hospitals were at capacity at a breaking point.

Thankfully now 65 percent of the population in Germany is vaccinated. That leaves still a third of the population that isn't vaccinated. They are the ones who are fueling those record high infection numbers, Isa.

SOARES: Yes. And on that point, if we stick with Germany, I mean, are we expecting stricter measures you think, Cyril, against those that are not vaccinated? Because clearly that is the concern here.

VANIER: Yes, I think the sense is that we will see further measures. There is also the impression I am getting is that countries are playing catch-up with the COVID numbers. They never know exactly how bad it's going to get until it hits them in the face. And that's been the case with Germany as with other countries.

So just this week, multiple federal states in Germany have been implementing stricter restrictions that the leader of Bavaria has likened to a kind of lockdown on the unvaccinated. Meaning that the unvaccinated people in Bavaria and other federal states now have to show proof of vaccination before they can access many parts of public life.

We are talking, you know, restaurants, hotels, the obvious things. Gyms. So those people in those countries -- in those federal states, I should say, unvaccinated people cannot -- they are allowed to leave their houses but they can't access so many parts of what make up our daily lives.

And I think you are going to see more of that in Germany. The incoming coalition, which isn't in power yet is already preparing some language and some new restrictions for when they do come into power.


SOARES: Cyril Vanier for us in Paris this morning. Great to see you, Cyril. Thanks very much.

Now, on Wednesday, South Korea reported more than 3,000 new COVID infections, a pandemic record really for the country. It comes after ease back on COVID restrictions as part of a new living with COVID policy. And that started in November.

Nearly 80 percent of the population has received both doses of the vaccine. Officials say most breakthrough cases have been discovered in nursing homes, as well as care facilities.

Now, a third international athlete has tested positive for COVID-19 at an event preparing for the Beijing 2022 Olympics. The athlete tested positive on Tuesday and was classified as asymptomatic while participating in the Luge World Cup. Officials say the athlete is known contact of someone previously confirmed also have an asymptomatic case but now they're being put in isolation until further observation.

We now have new information on Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Chinese state media has released an e-mail, supposedly from Peng, claiming she's fine, and that she denies making recent allegations of sexual assault.

Now a post on her verified waiver account earlier this month accused a former communist party leader of pressuring her into having sex. That post was quickly deleted and Peng hasn't been seen since. Tennis authority doubt the veracity of this new e-mail and fear for Peng safety.

More details now from CNN's Ivan Watson.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CRRESPONDENT (voice over): The royalty of professional tennis expressing concern about the welfare of one of their own.

UNKNOWN: Honestly, it's shocking, you know, that she is missing.

WATSON: Warnings echoed by other champions past and present. I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK, writes Naomi Osaka. Adding, hash tag, where's Peng Shuai.

I've known Peng since she was 14, writes Chris Evert, where is she?

Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis champion --

UNKNOWN: Peng Shuai moves into the quarterfinals.

WATSON: -- hasn't been seen or heard from in weeks.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: This is really extraordinary. A top athlete, 35 years old, a name that a lot of people know, formerly number one ranked tennis player in the world just goes missing, gone! WATSON: In early November, Peng published this bombshell post on her

Chinese social media account. An open letter to a former top communist leader named, Zhang Gaoli, now aged 75, who Peng accuses of sexually assaulting her after the two had an affair.

Why did you have to come back to me, take me to your home to force me to have sex with you, the post reads. Yes, I did not have any evidence and it was simply impossible to have evidence.

CNN cannot independently confirm these allegations, and we have reached out to Peng, as well as Zhang and his wife through the Chinese government for further comment with no results. Shortly after the controversial post, Peng's online profile more or less disappeared.


WATSON (on camera): Until recently, Peng Shuai was one of the biggest tennis stars in China. But look what happens when you try to search for people with her name in the Chinese internet. You get the message. No results found. Censors have all but scrubbed this woman from the Chinese internet.

On Thursday, Chinese state media released this e-mail, purportedly written by Peng to the head of the Women's Tennis Association. It completely disavows the previous allegations of sexual assault, adding, I'm not missing nor am I unsafe. And I hope Chinese tennis will become better and better.

WTA chairman Steve Simon responded in writing, saying the statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts. I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the e-mail we received.

Unable to communicate directly with Peng despite multiple attempts, he is calling for independent and verifiable proof, that this Chinese tennis star safe.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

SOARES: Let's get more on the story, joining us now to discuss this is David Law, co-host of The Tennis podcast. Good morning to you, David.


SOARES: Let me start with your thoughts on those words we heard from WTA chairman Stephen -- Steve Simon. What struck you when you read that?

LAW: Well, pretty unprecedented certainly, within the sport of tennis. In my recollection for a leader of the sport to talk so openly and bluntly and honestly about how he feels about his situation regarding a country in China that they are so tied with. So wrapped up financially.

They have such incredible investments as WTA, Women Tennis Association tour within China. Their very biggest events take place in that country at the end of the year including what would've been this week in Shenzhen in China with an unheralded prize money pot available for players.


And yet he was absolutely clear that unless a satisfactory result is comes to fruition and the whereabouts of Peng Shuai are known and that they that she's OK as independently and as a verified source --


LAW: -- then they are not going to do business with China, which I haven't heard of anything like that before.

SOARES: Yes. And that's rich. That's what struck me. You know, he seems to be demanding, you know, accountability, transparency. This is what he called the New York Times if we can bring it up, my producers bring this graphic up.

He said basically we are prepared to take the next step and not approaching China. He says, if at the end of the day, we don't see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that's what it came to.

I mean, that is a pretty substantial threat. I mean, put that into context for us here? It's a huge financial market for them, is it not?

LAW: It certainly is. If you consider that two years ago that they held what is the season ending finale. The WTA finals in Shenzhen and they -- they were able to promote the biggest prize money check for the winner in history in tennis. Ashleigh Barty winning $4.4 million.

The same event this year is taking place in Guadalajara this week. It's just being won by Garbine Muguruza and she's won 1.6 million. So, a third of the amount because of COVID forcing the cancellation of that tournament in Shenzhen this year. But that's the sort of difference in financial cloud that the Chinese market has given women's tennis and tennis in general.

And basically, he is saying that that doesn't matter to us. Relatively speaking, yes, we want to go back to China next year. But if this is not satisfactorily resolved, we won't be. And it's very rare. I can't remember a situation where a sporting leader has been prepared to be as clear as that.

SOARES: Do you think then that this is a watershed moment? Because we've seen other -- we've been here before. I mean, the NBA and you can correct me if I'm wrong, buckle under pressure with China.

LAW: Yes, I would say that's what we've tended to see. Or we've absolutely certainly seen leaders hedge their bets a little bit and use management speak so that they are able to speak out but without upsetting people to the point of losing out on a financial deal like that. I mean, I don't really see where this ends other than women's tennis

and maybe tennis in general having to pull out for a period of time from China. And they've got a 10-year deal with Shenzhen to host the WTA finals. They've only staged it once because of the COVID situation. Bt how do you go back unless this is satisfactory resolved.

SOARES: And suppose -- I mean, I suppose the WTA is hoping that China is going to blink first as it continues to mount pressure on them. But I mean, this is a pretty nightmare for, a P.R. nightmare in many way in China. Do you -- do you think we can see any sort of boycott? I'm thinking diplomatic boycotts as we look ahead to the Olympic Games here.

LAW: It's very difficult to say how far this would go. Whether it would go beyond tennis, for instance? And frankly, even if the rest of tennis would support whether these are words that won't be followed up. It's impossible to know at this point.

I just feel that having read his words, and also heard the strength of the tennis community. And players like Naomi Osaka, and Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, the greats of the game just being very strong and clear in their view. That this cannot be accepted. This has to be resolved satisfactory. Otherwise, we can't do business with them. What the rest of the sporting world does is anybody's guess.

SOARES: Let me ask you very quickly, very briefly, David. I mean, from those you've heard, and in your podcast, is there enough support from players to perhaps boycott games do you think? Or are we far from that at this point?

LAW: I certainly think that there's going to be a lot of support for the stance that Steve Simon, the leader of women's tennis is taking here. I think the players are really pleased to hear that he is unequivocal about it. And I think that will be the view.

I don't think players are going to be saying well actually the prize money is so high in China that we are prepared to, you know, have it at all costs. I really don't see that. I think that there could be.

If this isn't resolved, I don't think that they're going to say you know what, let's just crack on. I think that there will be support. If that means not playing in China until it sorted, maybe that's the way they will go.


SOARES: We shall keep an eye -- our eyes on this. David Law, great to have you on the show. Thanks very much.

LAW: Thank you.

SOARES: Now tensions at the Belarusian/Polish border have ease but the migrants' hope of starting a new life in Europe are dwindling.

Germany's chancellor urged the Belarusian president to allow the U.N., as well as the E.U. to provide aid to the migrants and a way for them to return home. Many of the migrants have been moved to a shelter, and they fear the next step is deportation.

CNN's Matthew Chance has the story for you.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These are the few hundred migrants refusing to give up, still at Europe's border now begging to be allowed through. Behind the razor wire, Polish border guards showing little sign of backing down.

UNKNOWN: He said help!


UNKNOWN: Help. yes, help all.

CHANCE: That's what they're shouting?

UNKNOWN: Yes. That's what they're shouting.

CHANCE: And the Polish, they're not helping?

UNKNOWN: Yes. Not helping.

CHANCE: Not helping.

UNKNOWN: They are not helping. Yes.

CHANCE: Before the pleas, there was anger. This was the violence that engulfs the border between Belarus and Poland just the day before. At times, surging out of control that the barricades infused.

They are throwing stones. And you can see the Pols are responding with water, aw, with water cannon, covering us in water, sometimes that water is kind of acrid has some sort of pepper component in it, and so, it sort of stinging your eyes a little bit.

But now, Belarus accused of orchestrating the crisis appears to be ratcheting the pressure down. Filling these makeshift migrants processing center away from the volatile border. Families are given food and blankets here and warm clothes to stave off the cold. It's still basic but lives are less at risk.

UNKNOWN: It's so good for us.

CHANCE: Lives of migrants like Shohan (Ph) from Iraqi Kurdistan and her son Aji.

Hello, Aji (Ph), how are you?

We first met them a few days before in the freezing camp at the border desperate to leave for Germany.

UNKNOWN: When we came here from -- because of my son. Because he needs an operation. CHANCE: He needs an operation?

UNKNOWN: Yes, big operation in the back.

CHANCE: I see he's got -- he's got this splint on his leg.


CHANCE: I see.

UNKNOWN: He can't walk away. Here is splint because it is too much warm.

CHANCE: Much warmer?

UNKNOWN: Yes, warmer than the rest and we have food. We have beds --


UNKNOWN: -- for sleeping. Yes.

CHANCE: They are giving you these blankets. Are you still hopeful that you will get, you and Aji will get to Germany? Do you think it will still happen, or will they send you back to Iraq?

UNKNOWN: I have big hope to go to Germany, because I think Germany has humanity.

CHANCE: But back at the border camp, there are further growing doubts of passage to Europe is really in store. After having their hopes built up in Belarus, these desperate migrants may now see them bashed.

Matthew Chance, CNN, on the Belarus/Poland border.


SOARES (on camera): Now the E.U. and NATO place the blame for this crisis squarely on the Belarusian president, they say Alexander Lukashenko lured refugees from the Middle East and drop them at the Polish border in revenge for E.U. sanctions. An exiled opposition leaders says she sympathizes with the migrants who are being used in this power struggle. Take a listen.


SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: I really feel pity for the people who are on the borders, because they are weapons in the hands of a criminal that wants to take revenge on the European Union for, because they asked (Inaudible) the Belarusians.

I think that humanitarian -- this is humanitarian catastrophe for sure. And Europe, I think has to send humanitarian mission to the border and help the most fragile people among migrants like women or children.

But of course, on the other hand, Europe doesn't have to communicate with Lukashenko, because he initiated this crisis and he is responsible for this.


SOARES (on camera): CNN Salma Abdelaziz joins me now here in the studio for more. And Salma, as we were listening to that, we heard the Iraqi Airways plane is heading from Baghdad to Minsk to try and evacuate. So, we're at the process now at the point now it's deportations here.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: This is absolutely a nightmare for those families that are sitting in that processing center, that is their worst fear realized. Because some of these families have risked their life savings. They are escaping war, conflicts, economic deprivation.

You saw that piece from our colleague Matthew Chance where there was a family that had a child who is wounded trying to get medical care.


So. to go through this journey and again, we're going to remind people of those comments from the European Union, from NATO, saying that many of these migrants were quite literally lured, tricked, deceived into coming into the border believing they had an opportunity to make it into the E.U.

Being used, again, I'm going to use that language from the European Union, as human tools, weaponized --


ABDELAZIZ: -- in a geopolitical context and now returning back to conflict.

SOARES: Unfortunately, you know, you and I have covered the migrant crisis, you know, they are either deported but there's more migrants. More migrants have arrived because they are seeking, you know, better life, quality of life for their children, health care for their children.

So, what measures can Europe put in place beside sanctions here, because that's all they've done so far to try and avoid this from happening.

ABDELAZIZ: So that's really the question, Isa. So, we had the fifth -- fifth round, again I'll emphasize that, of sanctions against Belarus going to place earlier this week.

You have a lot of pressure also coming from the White House. President Joe Biden is saying sanctions could come in early next month against the government of Belarus.

You already have and we're going to bring up here President Putin of Russia who is being accused of backing President Lukashenko of aggravating this geopolitical crisis, of using these migrants, again, as a human tool, as a weapon to destabilized that region. That's the accusation from the E.U.

You have Angela Merkel picking up the phone, calling Lukashenko, trying to urge her counterparts to move towards a more humanitarian understanding of the action.

But yes, absolutely the fear is there, Isa. Because this is a critical border, this is the border of the E.U., this is the eastern flank of NATO. It will remain a sensitive area.

SOARES: And Poland has the E.U. backing here, you know. And that is important to outline. But you know, what can, from an economic perspective and I know you talked about sanctions, but what about airlines, pressure on airlines, what can the E.U. do here?

ABDELAZIZ: I mean, that is one of the key focus -- key focus here of this latest round of sanctions --


ABDELAZIZ: -- as these airliners. We've heard about Iraqi Airways, there's been accusations against Istanbul airport also being used as a location for migrants to move.

So, you do have these key routes, but again this is a huge international action, you have to consider who is a legitimate traveler, who is not a legitimate traveler. How do you begin to check, make all those balances?

And you still have to recognize there is the right of asylum in the European Union.


ABDELAZIZ: And that's where the accusation against Poland comes, is for migrants who do cross that border, is Poland recognizing their right to asylum. Some human rights group saying absolutely not.

SOARES: Lukashenko, meanwhile, you know, clearly not happy at all with these rounds, these fifth rounds of sanctions. He is retaliating. I mean, he's stopping the supply of electricity to Ukraine. I mean, an E.U. -- an E.U. ally. And that's -- that is just the beginning of a long, we suspect, diplomatic tit-for-tat here.

ABDELAZIZ: Absolutely. And in a way, if you speak to the E.U., this is part of the tit-for-tat. This is part of his reaction, against Lukashenko's reaction against actions. If you ask the E.U., that's why those migrantss were there, was because Lukashenko is fighting back against those economic sanctions.

And that was his response. It's not the first time we've seen migrants, human beings, families that are desperate and vulnerable used in this way. And unfortunately, Isa, I can't see how we can stop that from happening again.

SOARES: Salma Abdelaziz, thanks very much, Salma. Well, the border between Ukraine and Russia is also being closely

watched as a buildup of Russian troops raises alarm bells. In response, Ukraine says it held military drills in the Russian annexed Crimea. It released footage of the exercises showing marines, tanks as you can see there, as well as helicopters.

At least 90,000 Russian troops are amassed near the border regions, that has U.S. defense secretary calling for Moscow to really explain itself. Take a listen.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We continue to see troubling behavior from Russia, we're not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to. But these movements certainly have our attention, and you know, I would urge Russia to be more transparent about what they're up to.


SOARES (on camera): Well, Secretary Austin also weighed in on the space to re-caused by Russia's recent anti-satellite missile test, he said it causes a safety concern that undermined strategic stability.

The U.S. military says that China appears to be developing a first strike nuclear weapon that can fly around the world at the speed of sound without being detected. We have that story just ahead.

And as tensions remain high between Beijing in Taiwan, Taipei is unveiling its advanced F-16 fighter jets.

CNN's Will Ripley was there to see them firsthand. His report is just ahead.



SOARES (on camera): Now U.S. military officials say China's recent tests of a hypersonic missile was even more alarming than it first appeared, they say it has the hallmarks of a first U.S. defensive weapon and says that China's arsenal is advancing faster than anyone realized.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has the details for you.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a stark warning from one of the highest-ranking U.S. generals about China's growing military capabilities. General John Hyten, the vice president of the joint chiefs of staff says that in a Chinese hypersonic missile test last summer the missile went around the world five times at the speed of sound.

He told CBS News that the test, quote, "has the potential to change a lot of things, and that the U.S. has to be concerned." Take a listen.

JOHN HYTEN, VICE CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: They launched a long-range missile, it went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China. That impacted a target in China.

UNKNOWN: It hit the target.

HYTEN: Close enough. Why are they building all this capability, they look like a first-use weapon. That's what those weapons look like to me.


MARQUARDT (on camera): A first use weapon means it could be used as a first strike in warfare as opposed to a deterrent or response to another attack. The reason that China, as well as the U.S. and Russia are developing hypersonic missiles is they are less predictable and detectable than intercontinental ballistic missiles that fly in an arc.

This fly closer to the earth. That could mean, General Hyten said, that China could one day launch a surprise nuclear attack against the United States. Now General Hyten has been sounding the alarm about the pace of China's progress in developing advanced weapons.

Last month, he called it stunning, while saying at the same time that the Pentagon is unbelievably bureaucratic and slow. He called the Pentagon bureaucracy brutal, and he also said that China will surpass the U.S. if something isn't done.

In terms of numbers, the Pentagon believes that by the end of the decade China will have around 1,000 nuclear warheads. For comparison, the U.S. right now has about four times that. But in terms of the testing that they're doing on hypersonic, China has done hundreds of tests in the last five years as General Hyten says, while the U.S. Has done just nine.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

SOARES: Well, Taiwan is working to modernize its military. And on Wednesday it commissioned upgraded F-16 fighters as tensions remain high with Beijing.

CNN's Will Ripley was there for the ceremony, and gives us an inside look.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A spectacle of military might here at Chiayi Air Base on Taiwan's western coast facing China. We flew here by a military plane from Taipei, it's about a 40-minute flight, and we're getting pretty unique access to Taiwan's newly updated fighter fleet, these are F-16Vs.

They are older F-16's upgraded with new radar, new computer systems, kind of like updating your iPhone to the latest model. Taiwan is also ordering a new batch of brand-new F-16Vs that are

expected to arrive beginning in 2023.

[03:30:00] Nonetheless, the reality is Taiwan is facing a widening military gap with the mainland.

Even these highly-sophisticated fighters, they showed us their top gun-style moves, they would have a hard time competing in direct aerial contact with some of the fighter jets that the People's Liberation Air Force has unveiled. And some of those fighter planes have been flying near Taiwan in record numbers, including 150 in just five days at the beginning of October.

Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, is here. She was waving to the troops, waving to the planes as they flew by and inspecting these new aircraft, and even handing out pay bonuses to the pilots, because one of the reasons that Taiwan's military is having a hard time finding recruits is because the salaries just aren't competitive when you compare them with civilian pilots.

You also have the director of the de facto U.S. Embassy, the American Institute of Taiwan here showing that there is a U.S. presence albeit not an official diplomatic presence on the ground in Taiwan. But we know that there's been increasing military cooperation between the United States and Taiwan just over the last couple of years.

Hundreds of military exchanges have taken place with personnel from the United States coming here to train the Taiwanese military and also Taiwanese personnel going in training in the United States as well. All of this to try to guard against what many analysts see as an increasingly assertive mainline with an increasingly powerful military, a military that President Xi Jinping in China has said repeatedly could be used to retake this island, which it claims as its own territory by force, if necessary.

Will Ripley, CNN, at Chiayi Air Base in Taiwan.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Thanks to Will Ripley for that report. And still ahead, Iraq's oil industry having devastating impacts. How toxins from oil fields are seeping to all aspects of life in Basra Province.

Plus, British Columbia has declared a state of emergency after days of heavy rain unleashed widespread flooding. Is there relief in sight? We will have a check on the forecast next.


SOARES (on camera): Welcome back. A few countries are as dependent on oil production as Iraq and that's taking a toll on the southern province of Basra. Toxins from oil fields aren't just going into the air but also into the land as well as water.

Jomana Karadsheh has the story for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For decades, (INAUDIBLE) lived in the shadows of this thick, black, toxic cloud that he says is suffocating his southern Iraqi town.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): When the wind comes that way, the whole river dies, he says. In my house, my trees and my garden are dead.

The flames burning in this oil field and many others in Iraq are known as gas flaring, burning off the national gas produced during oil extraction. It's a common practice as old as the oil industry, but it's one of the biggest polluters of the planet.

And Iraq is the world's second worst offender, according to the World Bank. It contributes to around 10 percent of the global flaring greenhouse emissions.

Oils are major driver for the climate crisis, but residents here say it is also the cause of a local environmental disaster. It is killing the village of (INAUDIBLE), its mayor says.

Mayor (INAUDIBLE) says there has been a rise in cancer cases and respiratory illnesses in his village over the past decade. In one neighborhood alone, he says, there are about 40 cancer cases in 130 households, many of them children.

While experts say there is no evidence of a direct link and it still needs more research, everyone here blames it on the poisonous air they have been breathing their entire lives. And it's not just this village that is suffering, it is the entire province. Basra sits on some of the world's largest oil reserves, but its black gold may also be its curse.

Officials with the Ministry of Environment say everything from the remnants of war to industrial waste contributes to Basra's pollution, but the top polluter, they say, is the oil industry.

FAIZA AL-RUBAIAE, IRAQI ENVIRONMENT INDUSTRY (through translator): Health facilities, landfill sites, sewage filtering stations, leather factories, power stations, it is the oil industry activities that are the mother of all pollution in Basra and other provinces.

Imagine you keep breathing this, every minute, every day, every month and every year. That is why we have seen the rates of cancer, especially those related to air pollution, increase on an annual basis.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): The Iraqi oil ministry says it is shifting towards clean and green energy. Iraq is also committed to eliminating all routine gas flaring by 2030. But for the few Iraqi environmental activists like Falah Hassan, change can't come soon enough.

FALAH HASSAN, IRAQI ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST (through translator): The people of Basra, in the midst of an inferno, they are dying a slow death. Basra is in hell. But people don't feel the slow death because of the gradual environmental impact on their lives.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Years of war and sanctions have decimated the country's infrastructure. And with everything Iraqis have been through, he says raising awareness is a battle.

HASSAN (through translator): People don't feel environmental issues are a priority. They feel it is a luxury. But we are trying to make it a priority for them. This is our cause.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Iraq is running out of time. According to a U.N. report, it is the fifth most venerable country to the effects of climate change, and many here say they are feeling the impact.

We used to have lots of fish. Now, it's gone, fisherman (INAUDIBLE) says. Nothing good comes from this river anymore. Everything is gone.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


SOARES (on camera): The Pakistani city of Lahore has consistently had bad pollution. But now, an air quality group has declared it the world's most polluted city. The foul air in Pakistan, which has worsened in recent years, is attributed to diesel fumes, seasonal crop burning, and other factors. Some of Lahore's 11 million residents have been pleading with the government to do more to clean the smog. So far, very little success.


MUHAMMAD SAEED, LAHORE RESIDENT (through translator): There is so much smog and pollution here. I used to come here with my children. But now, I don't bring them out anymore. Children are experiencing breathing-related illnesses. We appeal to the government. For God's sake, find a solution.

There are factories and small industries operating here. Shift them somewhere else or give them compensation, or provide them with modern technology so we can get rid of the smog.


SOARES (on camera): India's capital also has bad pollution, which also gets worst in November. Farmers burn waste from their crops. Now, Delhi is banning nonessential vehicles from entering in an effort to help cut down on air pollution. The government has also ordered five coal-fired power stations around New Delhi to temporarily shut down. We will stay on top of that story for you.

In North America, Washington State and British Columbia are grappling with catastrophic flooding up to days of torrential rain. Washington State's governor says floodwaters rushed in at a stunning speed causing extensive damage.

[03:40:00] SOARES: You can see the search and rescue teams have found the body of a man believed to be swept away in floodwaters. It is the second storm-related death in the region.

Meanwhile, British Colombia is under a state of emergency. As Canadian officials warn, the death toll is expected to rise in the coming days. The region is now bracing for more rain.

CNN's meteorologist Derek Van Dam is tracking the system. And Derek, as you track -- good morning to you, first of all -- as you track the system, give us a sense of how long this may go on for, because these families, these areas are in desperate need of a break here.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Yeah, there is more rain now. There will be a break this weekend and then another, what we call an atmospheric river event, will take shape by Monday and Tuesday of next week. So, all in all, more rain in the forecast. Not what we want to hear, but there is that brief reprieve this weekend. That is the good news.

But this is such a multi-faceted disaster. You've seen images from the air and on the ground. Devastating to watch. But think about the impacts to the agriculture, to the supply chain. That is a significant part of the story as well.

Look at these community members in the Abbotsford region that got hit hard in southern British Columbia, bonding together to save some of the stranded cattle there impacted by the flood and rain.

So, this is a satellite image of British Columbia. Here is Vancouver. Here is Abbotsford. I want you to see some of the runoff and sediment coming from the Fraser Valley. That is that shade of brown kind of moving from the land into the ocean.

Think about the port of Vancouver. They have actually closed all rail service to and from Canada's largest ports on the British Columbia coast. So, this has not gone effect (ph) for the supply chain issues that have already become problem because of COVID and the pandemic over the past 20 months. Now, at this, we've got significant issues going forward as well.

Copernicus, which is an atmospheric monitoring system coming out of Europe, has monitored these floods for the past several days. It picked up on satellite imagery over 250 millimeters of rain in a very short period of time. Here is the precipitation moving through now. It is light in comparison to what we experienced earlier this week and into last weekend.

But nonetheless, we definitely do not need any more rain to move through. We are going to get that break. That's the good news. So, by Sunday, Saturday and Sunday, we should see a clearing trend. But then back into the Monday and Tuesday timeframe, that is when we are concerned for more precipitation.

You can see it just piling up. Mountain snows throughout British Columbia. The coastal range into the cascades right along the coastal areas. The lowest elevation regions, Abbotsford to Vancouver, once again being struck by heavy rainfall next week. Back to you, Isa.

SOARES: Stay safe, everyone. Derek, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Still ahead right here on the show, protests against the military coup. Sudan had drawn a harsh response from security forces. But the demonstrators say they are not giving up.

Plus, after days without communication with the public, one Cuban activist who helped organize anti-government protests is now in Spain. We'll have the details on his unexpected trip next.




SOARES (on camera): Now, as Cuba cracks down on anti-government demonstrations, one of the leaders of the island's protest movement has fled to Spain. His arrival Wednesday was confirmed by Spanish government, putting an end to his unknown whereabouts.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has more for you from Havana, Cuba.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ever since trying to organize protest in Cuba at the beginning of the week, Yunior Garcia Aguilera, an opposition activist here, had been out of touch. Apparently, the government had cut off his communications.

The last time I saw him, his house was surrounded by state security agents, police, and government supporters were lowering flags over the window of his apartment to keep him from communicating with journalists outside.

So, a number of his fellow activists were quite concerned about his well-being, whether he was detained, on arrest or, as they said, had disappeared. So, when he showed up on Wednesday in Spain, it was both a surprise and something of a relief to those activists who had been wondering where he was.

Garcia Aguilera to date has not explained what led him to leave, but he did post on Facebook that he arrived in Spain. He arrives alive, healthy, and ideas intact. We have to thank many people who have made this trip possible. I've been without communication for several days, and I need to find out about other situation of other members of his group called Archipelago. He says, very soon, he will be telling more about what he calls his odyssey to Spain.

The Cuban government has released photos of Garcia Aguilera at the airport in Havana, seeming to indicate, they say, that he was not under arrest or that he was not escorted to the airport.

Garcia Aguilera was facing charges. He told me from the 11th of July protest that he had been arrested. And he said it was very likely that he thought he was going to face further charges for trying to organize these protests that the Cuban government had banned.

There are several other people who have been arrested following the protests. And many of his supporters and fellow activists have also been blocked in their homes. The Cuban government has been furious that he tried to organize these protests following the widespread protests we saw over the summer.

And so, Garcia Aguilera very clearly has chosen to go into exile. He says he will continue to fight but it is unlikely he will be able to return to Cuba for quite some time.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


SOARES (on camera): Sudan has seen its bloodiest day of protests since last month's coup.



SOARES (voice-over): Security forces shot and killed at least 14 protesters and wounded dozens more on Wednesday. Demonstrators are demanding the return of civilian rule. But the military refuses to budge.

We get more now from CNN's Larry Madowo.



LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wednesday's deaths mark another escalation in the military's violent crackdown on protesters in Sudan. This follows days and weeks of civil disobedience, which have followed the October 25 coup, which essentially the military took over.

And now, the protesters say despite the heavy toll, despite the dozens of people injured in these protests, they will keep going at it until the military hands over back the civilian-led transition, which would (INAUDIBLE) a democratic process in Sudan.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Nairobi, Kenya, specifically addressed the situation in Sudan.

ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We support the Sudanese people who repeatedly made clear their aspirations for democracy. And we back their call to restore Sudan's democratic transition.

We are continuing to work with international community to urge Sudan's military to release all those detained with the takeover. Sudan had been on the path towards democracy and sustainability. Returning to that path is the best way for Sudan to achieve peace and prosperity, become a leader on the continent, and to restore very strong support from the international community.

MADOWO: Secretary Blinken, like many in the international community, considers the restoration of the position of Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister key to providing legitimacy to a return to a civilian-led transition in Sudan. He was initially detained after that coup incident but has now been released. He has been meeting with diplomats and envoys but has not been seen in public since that time.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been leading many of these protests, states the blood of those who have been killed are in the hands of the military.


MADOWO: And they have reported widespread crimes, including the military beating protesters and using live bullets. The international community wants a return to a civilian-led democratic transition and release of those people who are in custody. But so far, the military is not listening.

Larry Madowo, CNN, Nairobi.


SOARES (on camera): Thank you, Larry. Now, one of the most recognizable figures from the January 6 insurrection is getting one of the longest prison sentences so far. Just ahead, we'll explain what it could mean for other defendants.

Plus, the latest on the sex trafficking trial of Jeffrey Epstein's former associate, Ghislaine Maxwell. Stay with us for that.


SOARES: Now, the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial will start a third day of deliberation in just a few hours in Wisconsin. Defense attorneys plan to file a second motion for mistrial of a drone video, which jurors asked to see again on Wednesday. They say prosecutors gave them a low-quality version compared to the video used during the trial.

The 18-year-old Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha last year and wounding a third. His attorneys say he acted in self-defense.

The man who became the face of the January 6 insurrection has been sentenced to more than three years in prison. Jacob Chansley, known as the QAnon Shaman, stormed into the Senate chamber that day carrying a spear as you can see there and a bullhorn. In September, he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstruction (ph) of Congress certification of the 2020 vote.

We get more now from CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the harshest sentence handed down to rioters in the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, was one of the first people to storm the Capitol. He defiantly climbed the Senate (INAUDIBLE) shirtless, clad in a horn, bear-skin headdress, and left a note that warned -- quote -- "justice is coming."

His theatrics all part of an attempt to interrupt the certification of the election results.

The Justice Department wants his sentence to serve as an example to others, and the judge agreed, handing him 41 months in prison, plus 36 months of supervised release.

His attorney asking the public for grace.

ALBERT WATKINS, LAWYER FOR JACOB CHANSLEY: We all need to be patient, because the last thing we can do is to act devoid of compassion and tell someone they're nuts. All that does is steal the resolve and make permanent that great divide.

NOBLES (voice-over): Meanwhile, the January 6 Select Committee continues their probe into who is responsible for the deadly riot.

PETE AGUILAR, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: You've had over 200 interviews with witnesses. We've looked at over 25,000 documents. We continue to make significant progress.

NOBLES (voice-over): They contend they are making progress, despite resistance from those loyal to former President Donald Trump. The committee is holding off on referring former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress. Instead, writing him a letter with a list of what they want to know from him, including answers to questions about a personal cell phone and messages they say Meadows may have destroyed.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS) (voice-over): We have information that that phone may or may not be in his possession. The number is not active anymore that he used, so we just want to know.


NOBLES (voice-over): While Meadows remains defiant, the committee continues to insist that he must appear.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): You can't stay home and sit on your couch and, you know, talk to people about the Fifth Amendment or executive privilege, but not show up. You have a legal duty to show up. Now, once you show up, you begin to answer questions.

NOBLES (voice-over): Meadows, just one of 35 subpoenas issued by the committee. Other targets also continued to evade their requests. Former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark is still on a standoff with the committee. And members say Trump associates like Dan Scavino and Kash Patel have had their subpoena deadline postponed while they negotiate. Despite this lack of cooperation, Chairman Bennie Thompson says more subpoenas are coming this week.

(on camera): Now, the committee says that more subpoena requests could be coming soon, but that most high-profile subpoena targets, Steve Bannon, his criminal contempt case is now making its way through the court system. On Wednesday, Bannon said that he told the court that he plans to plead not guilty. That means his arraignment scheduled for Thursday likely won't happen. So, we will have to wait and see when his trial is set.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


SOARES (on camera): Now, jury selection for Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial is underway in New York. The British socialite has pleaded not guilty to charges she helped recruit and groom underage girls for her longtime associate Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein died in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial. Twenty-seven perspective jurors have been qualified. So far, 60 are needed before the final jury selection can begin.

And in the coming hours, two men convicted of killing American civil rights activist Malcolm X are expected to be exonerated 55 years after they were found guilty. That word coming from the lawyers of Khalil Islam, who died in 2009, and Muhammad Aziz, who was released from prison in 1985.

The 83-year-old released a statement saying he was victimized by the criminal justice system. The two-year-long investigation found new evidence of the men's innocence. The conviction of a third man still stands.

And that does it for us. I'm Isa Soares. I'll be with you at "CNN Newsroom" in about three minutes or so. So, don't go anywhere. Do stay right here with CNN.