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Germany Reports Its Highest Single-Day Surge of Infections; Ethiopian PM to Lead Troops on Front Lines; Nations Tap Oil Reserves in Bid to Ease Prices. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 01:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: And a warm welcome to our viewers, I'm Paul Newton. Ahead right here on CNN Newsroom, new warnings of a brutal winter ahead in Europe. And a prediction that the coronavirus could take another half million lives by spring.

A possible major escalation in Ethiopia's fight against rebel fighters, the country's Prime Minister promises to head to the frontlines.

And a global effort to ease soaring gas prices. Some of the world's largest economies are teaming up to release record amounts of oil reserves.

So, the coronavirus situation in Europe is now rapidly deteriorating. Germany has just reported its highest ever single day surge of new infections. More than 66,000 new cases. Now its previous record came just last week. This is the World Health Organization issues a dire new warning. Europe could reach more than 2 million deaths from the virus by March. The global body says it expects high or extreme stress on hospital intensive care units in nearly every country in the region this winter.

Right now, Western Europe is being hit hard by the Delta variant. Now, have a look at this map. It shows the new COVID cases in the past week compared to the previous week, you'll notice those darker shades of red and they indicate a growing outbreak. World Health Organization officials tell CNN governments need to adopt what they are calling a vaccine plus strategy.


DR. HANS HENRI P. KLUGE, WHO REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE: There are five stabilizers, it's too late to prevent another wave because the vaccination coverage is too low. So, we have to focus on keeping mortality down. NUMBER one, by masks only 48% in European region is wearing a mask indoors is far too low. Number two is vaccination. And we need to involve more behavioral culture scientists and influencers making use of the COVID passport. The third one are boosters for the adult population. The fourth one is ventilation. And the fifth one we're working on are new clinical protocols, including the new treatments.


NEWTON: Now, the WHO reports new cases in Europe accounted for now 67% of all cases globally, and that's in the past week. And it's not just countries with lower vaccination rates like Germany, seeing those rise and infections. In fact, Spain and Portugal both have vaccinated more than 80% of their populations that cases are climbing on the Iberian Peninsula. Right across Europe, governments are imposing tough new measures ahead of a potentially devastating winter. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz reports now from Vienna.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: European region is once again the epicenter of the global pandemic, the World Health Organization is warning the European region could reach 2 million deaths due to COVID- 19 by March of next year. The region has already surpassed 1.5 million deaths due to coronavirus.

The World Health Organization says that 49 out of the 53 countries in the region could experience high or extreme stress on their ICU units between now and March of next year.

The WHO is blaming three factors for this surge in cases. First, the unvaccinated. Secondly, the highly contagious Delta variant and finally, of course, the easing of restrictions across the region. And that's why European leaders are stepping in to try to increase the vaccination rates, roll out new rules, try to curb the infection rates.

In Germany, the BUND stock has just passed new laws that require employers --employees rather, to show either a proof of vaccination, proof of recovery, a negative coronavirus test to go into the workplace if they don't -- they could face not getting their salary, not being paid here in Vienna, Austria where I am. The authorities are trying some of the toughest measures. The country is under a nationwide lockdown. The first in the European region to do so this season.

The chancellor is also targeting the unvaccinated with restrictions so even when this lockdown lifts if you are not immunized, you'll have to continue to live under lockdown rules. There's also a vaccine mandate in Austria that will go into place on February 1. Those who are not vaccinated at that point will be facing fines from the authorities.


Now it does appear for now that this is creating a rush to get vaccinated across Austria on November 19, the city of Vienna where I am recorded a record number of shots given in a 24-hour period, but immunizations do not appear to be enough for now. Because during the winter season, you have higher transmission rates. According to experts, it's been a few months since many people got their vaccines, you have waning immunity and of course limited hospital capacity. For now, it appears European leaders are going to have to try that strategy, the mix of encouraging the unvaccinated to finally come out and get their shots while also putting restrictions in place to curb infections. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Vienna.


NEWTON: Dr. Jim Versalovic is the pathologist and chief and Chief of COVID Command at Texas Children's Hospital, and he joins me now from Houston with more. It was startling to see it spelled out today. We have to begin with Europe here. The WHO, the warning is dire, 1.5 million Europeans have already died. That number could reach more than 2 million by March. Why, Doctor, we are almost a year out from having vaccines?

DR. JIM VERSALOVIC, PATHOLOGIST-IN-CHIEF, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL : Well, we certainly have continued to witness in 2021 new variants of COVID-19. The virus SARS-CoV-2 causing this pandemic has been changing and mutating. And this latest Delta variant, of course, created huge surges across the United States in late summer, early fall. We're saying continued spread around the world of Delta and other variants. And clearly, we're seeing this in Europe today.

NEWTON: Yeah, and in fact, the WHO said that that was one of the key reasons along with some vaccine hesitancy in Europe.

Going to the situation with children now, it was difficult to miss the fact that unfortunately, children in the last two weeks their cases have increased by almost a third. What do you attribute this to? And of course, we know that children have only started to get the vaccine in the United States. But does this also have to do with the fact that a lot of the mitigation efforts have been abandoned in a lot of different states?

VERSALOVIC: Well, first, I'll point out, Paula, that the Delta variant continues to be prominent in the United States. And then we've seen diminishing of cases throughout the month of October, November here in this part of the country in Texas, we continue to see hotspots around the United States. And the reality is the children were the last to receive the vaccine. So, with authorization just in the past month clearly November has been a busy month for us in administering vaccines. Here at Texas Children's, we've already administered more than 25,000 doses to children. And we are very busy across the country.

The reality is though, these are first shots, and it's a two shot protocols, we know with the Pfizer vaccine for school aged children, so many children remain unvaccinated. Many -- children that have been vaccinated or partially vaccinated and still don't have full protective immunity at the same time that schools are admittedly relaxing, many school districts are relaxing mask mandates, going mask optional in schools. And we all know with the holidays approaching there's going to be more mingling to outside of the school environment. So, the reality is that we've got plenty of potential for a continued spread in children and adults. NEWTON: Yeah, absolutely. I think parents, you know, all over the world really are a bit alarmed about the increase in as you said, a lot of it fueled by the Delta variant, what are you seeing in your practice?

VERSALOVIC: Well, currently, our positivity numbers are very low here in southeast Texas along the Gulf Coast, our positivity is well under 5%. Now, that's good news. The reality is we're still seeing COVID-19 in children. We know that children can be victims of COVID-19. They can also spread COVID-19 as well, in households and in communities and schools. So, it's so important to emphasize prompt diagnosis, treatment and prevention. It's important to note that with acute COVID many children have been hospitalized, more than 1600 in our hospital alone during the pandemic. And we know that more than 25% of children hospitalized may end up in a pediatric ICU and no age group has been spared.

NEWTON: And Doctor I want to talk to you about vaccine hesitancy among parents. What's been interesting here is that even pair that are double vaccinated perhaps even have a booster are still reluctant to have their children vaccinated. What would you say to them?


VERSALOVIC: Well, we have to remind parents that time is of the essence and the reality is that the Delta variant and COVID are still prevalent in the United States and around the world. Children may be infected and have acute COVID may be hospitalized, may have severe complications weeks later with MIS-C and two-thirds of those children may require critical care. COVID-19 can be deadly in hundreds of children have died of COVID-19, children under 18 years of age. So, we do need to remember the stark consequences if children are unvaccinated and the risks.

NEWTON: OK, we'll wait to see how this unfolds in the coming weeks. Dr. Jim Versalovic, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time and happy Thanksgiving if we don't see you beforehand.

VERSALOVIC: Happy Thanksgiving. There is hope with vaccines.

NEWTON: Now speaking of hope after more than a year and half of closures, New Zealand says it will begin easing border restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers starting in the New Year. Now New Zealanders coming from Australia will be allowed in starting January 16, then residents from all other countries may enter in mid-February. And international tourists finally will be allowed from April 30th. Travelers will have to isolate for seven days and show proof of vaccination.

Now the Ethiopian Prime Minister is vowing to lead his country's troops on the frontlines of the Civil War. Abiy Ahmed call to arms came after the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front claimed to capture two towns. Now during their advanced toward the Capital, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa says there's been some diplomatic progress but both sides are still trying to achieve their goals militarily, and each seems to think they're on the cusp of winning. CNN's Larry Madowo has details.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is not the first time that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is issuing a call to arms. But it is the first time that he's promising to personally go to the frontlines. In fact, he sees this as a final fight to save Ethiopia from internal and external enemies. And he's asking, he's trying to paint this as this nationalist movement for the people of Ethiopia, a section of his statement phase, "Those of you who aim to be one of Ethiopia's children who will be celebrated in history, rise up today for your country. Let's meet other war front. In the past and in the present the needs and lives of each and every one of us is below Ethiopia. We would rather die to save Ethiopia than outlive Ethiopia."

I've only recently returned from Ethiopia, and I saw firsthand how much Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been ratcheting up the rhetoric, how much is trying to talk up nationalist sentiment to try and paint an anti-Western narrative. And this seems to be the latest attempt to do so whether or not it will be successful. It's hard to tell at this stage. But the last time an African leader went to the battlefront against rebels, it ended in death that was for the Chadian President Idriss Deby. I'm not sure how much of this for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is performative, is posturing, or if he really intends to do it, but it will be quite significant. Larry Madowo, CNN Nairobi.


NEWTON: Joining me now from Boston is Alex de Waal, the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University, and I thank you for being with us. I'm going to deal first with the political situation, Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. envoy, he is really struck out in terms of diplomacy here not seeing a path forward, that would involve any kind of mediation or power sharing. I mean, why do you think the international community right now seems resigned to the worst?

ALEX DE WAAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD PEACE FOUNDATION, TUFTS UNIVERSITY: I think the international community has really found that it has no traction with the government of Ethiopia with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who, despite the fact that he has suffered and unremitting string of military defeats, does not seem to want to negotiate or indeed know how to negotiate. And he's getting a terribly bad reputation among the international community, not just with the United States, but also the Kenyans, with the African Union of simply not telling the truth, and not giving an accurate or realistic appraisal of his predicament. And at the moment, he's saying that Ethiopians should fight to the death for the idea of Ethiopia. And he himself is said, he will go to the frontline and command the troops at the frontline. This is not the words of a man who is prepared to contemplate any form of compromise.

NEWTON: Yeah, not to say at least to the fact that it's a Nobel Peace Prize winner at this point in time and the fact that no one really seemed to have predicted that this would go in this direction. You have made clear that the danger now is of mass ethnic killings something that CNN has already documented in the Tigray region. What are the risks that you see going forward here?


DE WAAL: Well, the ethnic killing is actually escalating as we speak in the western part of Tigray. But the -- perhaps the even more serious danger is in Addis Ababa itself, where 1000s, probably tens of thousands of ethnic Tigray have been rounded up. And they're also very many Oromo detainees at great risk. The government and its supporters have engaged in incitement to violence ethnically derogatory language, hate speech. And they are arming vigilantes, neighborhood groups. And this has all the makings of mass ethnic killing should the level of panic, the level of fear, the level of anger escalates over the coming days?

NEWTON: It is chilling, just to hear you discuss the risks. And I want to put a fine point on this, right? That this is Addis Ababa. This is -- it's crucial that people understand exactly the risks to, you know, that capital city right now. And then we deal with the humanitarian perspective, how destabilizing is this for Ethiopia, and maybe not even for the country itself, but for the entire region?

DE WAAL: I think the fact of the matter is that the Ethiopian army has essentially collapsed. There's no longer a professional army, there's rather an assemblage of different ethnic militia groups in uniform, backed by some high-tech equipment like aircraft and drones. And as goes the army of a state like Ethiopia. So, to go to the state, the state is in the process of breaking up and that is extremely serious. And we already have ramp and famine in Tigray unobserved by the world because journalists are not allowed to get in. But we have escalating humanitarian crises in other parts of the country to as the war spreads and escalates.

NEWTON: I will try and bring this full circle and go back to diplomacy. Do you think anything can work there? And I have to put a fine point on the fact that the world is distracted at the moment. There are many conflicts all over the world not to mention a continuing pandemic that is raging in places like Europe.

DE WAAL: Indeed, and we have anything but a consensus of the United Nations Security Council with Russia and China, effectively blocking any attempts to get in any serious action at the U.N. Security Council. And all sides in this, the federal government, the Tigrayans and indeed the Oromo Liberation Army, which is emerging as a major force, all of them have essentially given up on a mediated solution. They're all looking for a military fait accompli to achieve their political goals. Even though if pushed, each one of them will admit that that is an illusion. They can't achieve it. And that makes that is a terribly dangerous recipe for chaos, bloodshed and starvation.

NEWTON: Yeah, the grim resignation on the part of the international community has really been acute in the last few days. Alex de Waal, I appreciate this analysis.

DE WAAL: Thank you very much.

NEWTON: Still ahead here on CNN Newsroom, details on the coordinated effort to try and ease the global energy crunch and why it might be more of a band aid in a permanent fix. Plus, a CNN exclusive on patrol with Ukraine's navy. What the military is doing to counter a growing threat from Russia.



NEWTON: There's now an urgent push to drive down prices at the pump. On Tuesday, the U.S. announced plans to release a record 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And as part of a coordinated effort with other countries to try and use rising gas, prices right around the world.

Now the U.K., China, India, Japan, South Korea, have all agreed to open their reserves as well. And it's an unprecedented move for Japan, which has never before released state oil reserves in response to high prices. But Japanese officials say stabilizing those costs is in fact a crucial step towards economic recovery from the pandemic. Still, it's unclear exactly how much relief the move will provide for everyday consumers. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: We'll take time, but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden taking new steps to try and ease the pain at the pump by tapping into the nation's strategic oil reserves.

BIDEN: We always get through those spikes, but we're going to get through this one as well and hopefully faster. But it doesn't mean we should just stand by idly and wait for prices to drop on their own. Instead, we're taking action.

ZELENY: The decision coming just two days before Thanksgiving is unlikely to change gas prices for weeks. But it's the latest sign the White House is acutely focused on the political fallout from inflation, causing anxiety in the American economy.

BIDEN: The big part of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices because oil producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand.

ZELENY: The president ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The U.S. also getting commitments from five other countries with the U.K., China, India, Japan and South Korea agreeing to open their reserves to help combat soaring global oil prices.

BIDEN: This coordinated action will help us deal with a lack of supply which in turn helps ease prices. ZELENY: It's an open question whether the move will make gas prices fall during the holiday season or into the New Year , ahead of the critical midterm elections. But the White House is intent on showing the President trying to take action. But the President's decision also highlights the steep challenges facing the U.S. and the world, to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and combat climate change.

BIDEN: I also want to briefly address one myth about inflated gas prices. They're not due to environmental measures. My effort to combat climate change is not raising the price of gas or increasing its availability.

ZELENY (on camera): Now, the timing of this announcement certainly no coincidence coming before Thanksgiving here in the United States, but also it was done in coordination with those five other countries. Now President Biden made clear gas prices will not go down immediately. But Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said she does expect that to happen in the coming weeks. Jeff Zeleny CNN, the White House.


NEWTON: More on this, so I want to turn to Ryan Patel. He's a Senior fellow at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. really good to see you. This is really unprecedented and yet moves like this sometimes are not very effective as the President even admitted in terms of bringing down the price of oil immediately. This is a coordinated international effort, though, and in that case, it is unprecedented. Do you think that will help be a game changer for this?

RYAN PATEL, SENIOR FELLOW, CLAREMONT GRADUATE UNIVERSITY: Well, I mean, it's -- it will help -- I mean, you want to use the word game changing, I always think of like where it's going to go in a whole bunch of different directions in a fast way. I mean, this is more of a short-term effect that hopefully loosens the oil market a little bit over the next one to two months. You know, Paula, you know, as you know, over the past few years, typically in the U.S., you know, oil prices tend to kind of drop during holiday season kind to help people travel, you know, lessen the burden. You know, this is something obviously is gone the opposite effect where people are seeing, you know, the gas prices and, you know, daily consumers go up. And I think this was an effort by the Biden administration on a global effort to kind of hold the prices at the very least, and maybe push it down a little bit so people can feel it, and not feel the fear that it's going to continue to rise.


NEWTON: Yeah. And you mentioned fear, and it's palpable, right? That energy crisis is profound, globally, and it's been unnerving to many, especially, of course, those with lower incomes. How much do you expect it to fuel inflation more broadly, going forward?

PATEL: Yeah, I mean, this is where the inflation and, you know, I do want to say one thing, I hope it doesn't scare anybody, but like, the global demand for power is growing a lot more quicker. And that's part of the reason why the renewable energy, clean energy is being focused on across the globe, it's not just the focus of, you know, it's great for the environment, it is, you know, that aspect is that there needs to be energy and that aspect. So, there's -- that's one whole aspect, we haven't touched it.

And the second thing is, you mentioned inflation, yeah, you know, prices are rising, especially when you think about milk and daily goods and those kind of things, you know, even the example here in the U.S. where the Dollar Tree store is, you know, over 30 years now, raising their prices by 25% to $1.25, that was a big deal, because people were taking consideration of all the supply chain issues, you know, labor shortages. So, inflation is just not one thing, but many of these variables have all hit all at the same time with the pandemic kind of leading that disruption. And, you know, we -- and that's how, at the end of the day is being pushed on to the consumers. And there's no doubt about that.

NEWTON: Yeah, I'm glad that you mentioned the issue with the Dollar Store. Because psychologically, even if a lot of things in stores like that were already at higher prices, psychologically, they won't be at $1 anymore is significant. You know, we're -- this is a very complicated issue in terms of trying to normalize those energy markets, many people continue to tell us that the supply chains will ease but at this point, you know, you kind of alluded to it, this entire conversion to green energy, it will up end a lot in the coming years, right?

PATEL: Yes, I mean, and I do want to put the focus back on the oil companies, let's -- for example, Exxon, I mean, they are fully, you know, with their board, fully committed to finding renewable energy. So many of these producers, oil producers are trying to, if not focusing on the renewable energy of some of their platform or their revenues, because they are moving toward that route anyway. And so, the reason why it's not there, there's a lot of obviously potential, but we're just not there yet. And you see in the U.S. infrastructure bill, you know, bill, specifically, EV infrastructure, you know, vehicles, you know, globally, our electric vehicle going, you know, almost everyone's trying to build infrastructure around that. So, you know, part of that is, it's great to have this idea, but you got to build behind it. And part of this where the resources are. And we're starting to be at the tipping point, Paula, that we are in five years from now, it's going to look a lot different when it comes to energy.

NEWTON: Yeah. And yet, you won't be turning on a tap. I don't have a lot of time left. And the time that I do have, do you see evidence that the supply chain is shaking out the way it should things are normalizing?

PATEL: We're still not at the woods yet. Like, I want to be optimistic, but also realistic. I mean, it's really on the, you know, on a balance beam right now, and many of these companies, you know, globally are still having their backups in there. So yeah, we -- it could take a turn up for the worst for the wrong aspect of it. But, you know, we are moving in the right direction. I think supply chain prices and inventory still going to issue for this holiday season. So that's why I'm not saying we're back to normal. Because people are going to see a lot of things out of stock in this fourth quarter.

NEWTON: Right. And prices that continue to go up. Ryan Patel, really good to see you, have a good holiday week. I appreciate it.

PATEL: Thanks. You too.

NEWTON: Still to come here on CNN Newsroom, damning testimony in Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial, how a one-time aid claims the former prime minister was involved in his own media coverage. We'll have details next.




I'm Paula Newton.

Now top U.S. and Russian generals spoke by phone Tuesday in an effort to ensure quote, "risk reduction and operational deconfliction". This amid serious concerns about the Russian troop buildup near the border with Ukraine.

Meantime, the government in Kiev isn't taking any chances pushing forward with a badly needed upgrade of its navy.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has this exclusive report.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On patrol in some of the most contested waters in the world, Ukraine's navy took us on an artillery boat in the Sea of Azov just as tensions with Russia have reached a boiling point.

"Our main goal is to defend and keep the sovereignty of Ukraine from the direction of the sea," the captain tells me.

Russia has been massing troops near the Ukraine's border, the U.S. says, warning its allies a large-scale invasion could happen soon.

(on camera): The Ukrainians believe that if Russia does decide to launch an attack that the Sea of Azov could be one of the main battlegrounds. That's why the Ukrainians are both modernizing their fleet but also their infrastructure on land as well.

(voice over): The Azov coastline holds a strategic value to Russia. It would allow president Vladimir Putin to establish a much-sought land corridor to connect Russia to annex Crimea.

Ukraine's defense ministry gave us rare access to the massive construction going on at the Berdyansk Naval Base. Kiev has now ordered this building program to urgently be accelerated with the Russian threat looming large. (on camera): In order to complete this project as quick as possible,

the Ukrainian military tells us they are now working seven days a week. and they say once it is finished, it will offer a formidable deterrent against any Russian aggression.

(voice over): Upgrades seem badly needed here, with much of Berdyansk's port in utter disrepair. Ukraine says new facilities will allow them to base more and bigger ships here.

"We are ready," this officer says. "That is why we are here, so that at anytime if there is any aggression in the Azov Sea, we can resist it."

Ukraine's president says Russia has positioned close to 100,000 troops near its borders, which the Kremlin denies. These satellite images appearing to show dozens of military vehicles near Yelnya in southwestern Russia.

The Biden administration has warned Moscow not to attack and is mulling more weapons deliveries to Kiev.

CNN has learned one U.S. defense official says Russia's aim maybe to create confusion or to get concessions.

The Kremlin dismissed talk of a possible invasion as hysteria but Vladimir Putin also issued a clear warning.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to consider that western partners worsen the situation by delivering to Kiev modern lethal weapons and provocative exercises in the Black Sea. And not only there, but also other regions close to our borders.

PLEITGEN: Ukraine's armed forces say they are on constant alert. Preparing for an armed confrontation they hope can be avoided.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Berdyansk, Ukraine.



NEWTON: Now, the cause of the deadliest bus accident in Bulgaria's history is now under investigation. At least 45 people, including 12 children were killed when the bus crashed in flames about 30 kilometers west of Sofia. Seven people survived by leaping out of windows in the back of the bus.

A Bulgarian official said there was an explosion on the bus, but the reasons for it are still unclear. The bus was bringing tourists back to north Macedonia after a holiday trip to Turkey. North Macedonia's transport minister said the bus was not registered for international transport and the operating firm's license will be revoked.

Now, in Israel, a key witness in Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial says the former prime minister and his wife were so involved in shaping their media image, that they approved editors at the Walla news Web site.

Now, the former aide described Netanyahu as quote, "a media control freak". CNN's Hadas Gold has the details.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Benjamin Netanyahu back in court for his corruption trial. But the now former prime minister, in a familiar spot -- the center of attention.

"Surrounded by lawyers and journalists, how are you feeling," one asks. "Among you, like I am at home", Netanyahu responds. A few moments later, Nir Hefetz, the leader's one-time aide and confidant, now turns star witness against him.

A man ready to lift the lid the prosecution believes on the alleged wrongdoings of Israel's longest serving prime minister.

With cameras ushered out, proceedings began. Hefetz describing a man driven to entirely control his media coverage. If we use the term control freak, he is much more than that. and everything to do with media, he demands to know it all down to the smallest detail, Hefetz said. He spends at least as much time on media matters as he spends on security matters.

Israel's news media plays a central role in three of the four charges that Netanyahu faces. The most serious of those charges is for bribery for his alleged role in facilitating regulatory changes for a telecoms entrepreneur, in exchange for positive coverage on Walla, the businessman's influential news Web site.

In meetings and letters exchanged, an alleged arrangement was reached Hefetz claimed. Hefetz said Netanyahu's oldest son, Yair, became convinced that wall of website was failing to keep its side of the bargain.

But when the wife of the businessman began to oversee coverage of the prime minister, the situation changed. Netanyahu had the greatest control over the Walla Website, including with the headline would be, and where it would be on the home page, Hefetz told the court.

Even the most supportive media didn't give him that degree of control.

Outside the court, a small but noisy contingent were getting their message out, that Netanyahu is a liar, while his supporters stood their ground.

Israel's ex prime minister denies all of the charges and may not reappear in court for sometime. Nir Hefetz is expected to spend weeks giving evidence and the trial itself could take years.

Hadas Gold, CNN -- Jerusalem.


NEWTON: The newly reinstated prime minister of Sudan tells CNN he made a deal to share power with the military to avoid further violence and bloodshed.

Now Abdalla Hamdok was removed from power last month in a military coup. Since then more than 40 people have been killed in protests against the move.

Now, under a new agreement, Sudan's constitution's will be changed to split power between the civilians and military leadership. Hamdok says the deal isn't perfect, but it is necessary, he says, to avoid further killing.

Now, here's a part of the prime minister's conversation with my colleague Becky Anderson.


ABDALLA HAMDOK, SUDANESE PRIME MINISTER: There is no perfect agreement. There is a good agreement. There is a workable agreement. There is a possible agreement that would allow things to be normalized and allow the country to move forward.

We basically signed this agreement for us to save the lives of our people, avoid bloodshed and be able to put the country back.

There are so many other reasons that compelled us to go into this agreement. Among them, I think we would like to preserve the achievements that we have achieved in the last two years specifically in two areas -- to the economy and peace.

And I could elaborate further. There is also an impasse both nationally, domestically and internationally. This agreement has a great potential in unblocking this.


HAMDOK: And I think, more importantly, is to allow us to go back to the political process that would allow us to reach the election point. And hand over power to an elected people and allow these various people to choose a government of their choice.

That is why we went to do this agreement.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Personally, do you feel humiliated by this?

HAMDOK: No I don't feel humiliated for one reason. I had to take the right decision in the interests of the country. It is not a personal issue for me.

You know, there is a motto that says that if you are serious, do not allow the country to die for you. You will die for the country. So I went into this with full confidence that I took the right decision in the interest of the country and our people.


NEWTON: Groups like Sudan's Forces of Freedom, Change Coalition, and Sudan Doctors Syndicate all opposed the new deal saying there is no room to negotiate or partner with those who orchestrated the coup.

Still to come here on CNN, another high-profile organization is accusing the International Olympic Committee of downplaying a tennis star's sexual assault allegation.


NEWTON: A child has died following the Christmas parade rampage in Wisconsin, becoming the 6th victim killed in that tragedy. Now, this news came as the man accused of deliberately ramming his SUV into the crowd made his first court appearance where his bail was set at $5 million.

The latest now on this from CNN's Omar Jimenez.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are not words to describe the risk that this defendant presents to our community.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After being accused of killing 6 and injuring over 60 others, 39-year-old Darrell Brooks makes his initial court appearance.

KEVIN COSTELLO, COURT COMMISSIONER: I've not seen anything like this in my very long career.

JIMENEZ: He was charged with five counts of first degree intentional homicide, but prosecutors say a 6th is coming.

SUSAN OPPER, WAUKESHA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I wish to notify the court sadly that today we learned of another death of a child.

JIMENEZ: And there is new video of the moments. Police found and arrested the 39-year-old Brooks Sunday night on the front porch of 24- year-old Daniel Rider, who had no idea what had just happened at the Waukesha Christmas parade about a mile away.

DANIEL RIDER, ENCOUNTERED SUSPECT: He at one point asked me what was going on downtown. I was like there was a parade today. He was like oh that must have been what that was.

JIMENEZ: The man he now knows was Brooks, then asked to use his phone and call an Uber.


DARRELL BROOKS, DEFENDANT: Hey I called some -- I called an Uber and I'm supposed to be waiting for it over here but I don't know when it's coming. Can you call it for me please?

JIMENEZ: Not long after, Rider says he saw police going up and down the street and felt that it had to do with Brooks. So he told him to leave. Moments later --

BROOKS: My ID -- my ID. RIDER: So I'm looking for his i.d. and moments later the police see him and get him in cuffs. I had no idea in my house.

The Uber showed up maybe a minute after he was in cuffs as well. So I just think about sometimes if he'd gotten in that car, what could have happened.

JIMENEZ: Before allegedly driving his car through the parade, police say Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance earlier Sunday.

He has a criminal history going back to the 90s. But in July 2020, he was accused of firing a handgun during an argument. In February of this year he, he was released on bail.

Less than nine months later, he allegedly ran over a woman who claims she is the mother of his child with his car. Nine days later, he was released on just $1,000 bail, less than two weeks before the Christmas parade.

The Milwaukee County district attorney's office called that bail amount inappropriately low. Authorities say Brooks also had an outstanding arrest warrant in an unrelated case in Nevada where he is a registered sex offender.

Meanwhile, a community is trying to heal, mourning the 6 that were killed and processing loved ones that nearly added to the toll.

(on camera): And there are still others recovering in the hospital this morning as some even improve. A firefighter's son who was marching with his high school band during the Waukesha Christmas parade is now out of the ICU but with a long road to recovery, after having undergone at least a surgery to repair a broken femur.

Meanwhile, the suspect Darrel Brooks, during his initial court appearance rarely looked up and was oftentimes seen swaying back and forth in his seat. He currently faces 5 counts of first degree intentional homicide as prosecutors promised a 6th which would mean, if found guilty, he will face six consecutive life sentences.

Omar Jimenez, CNN -- Waukesha, Wisconsin.


NEWTON: Now, Human Rights Watch is now among those criticizing the International Olympic Committee, accusing the organization in fact of not putting enough pressure on Beijing to address Peng Shuai sexual assault allegations against a former Chinese official.

Now, Beijing has repeatedly said the tennis star's situation is quote, "not a diplomatic issue".

CNN's Will Ripley takes a closer look at the complicated relationship between the sports world and the Chinese government.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zhang Gaoli, China's 75-year-old former vice premier, the one-time face of the Beijing 2022 Olympics and the man who stands accused of sexual assault by one of China's premier tennis stars, Peng Shuai.

Her disappearance in the wake of the allegations on November 2nd and mysterious reappearance over the weekend, fueling a firestorm that threatens to dismantle China's worldwide sport aspiration.

Or does it? While the Women's Tennis Association's threat to pull a 10-year multi tournament could cost China, contracts with Major League Baseball, the NBA, Formula 1 and others put China on course with its goal to make sports a $780 billion dollar industry by 2025.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This could be the biggest for economy in the world.

RIPLEY: Sports is already big business in China. Home to almost 1.5 billion potential fans. According to analytics company Global Data, Chinese firms sponsorship agreement with the International Olympic Committee and football federations FIFA and UEFA alone are worth more than $2.2 billion and growing.

Athletes sponsorships and sports manufacturing account for lucrative deals with companies like Nike. In 2018, Nike made some 6.2 billion dollars in China. That number rose 21 percent from the previous year. Nike saw just a 7 percent increase in revenue in North America over that same period.

So far, Peng Shuai's sponsors have stayed silent in the wake of the allegations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a lot of organizations are trying to do at the moment is to navigate the middle way.

RIPLEY: The WTA has a lot to lose by taking a stand. Reportedly one- third of their revenue comes from China.

For the NBA, the outcome was remarkably different. Basketball is China's most popular sport but after a quickly deleted October 2019 Tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong democracy protests, the backlash from China was swift. The threat of sponsorship lost. Broadcast denial and severing of ties with the NBA proved a bridge too far.


RIPLEY: For an organization that at that time made 10 percent of its revenue in the Chinese market, the NBA initially distance itself from Morey and moved to do damage control hoping to salvage its relationship.

And the IOC looking at a multi billion dollar revenue stream of China's hosting of the winter Olympics just a few months away.

That relationship with China, like it was in 2015 when John helped negotiate Beijing hosting the 28 22 winter games. Appears as strong as ever.

Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


NEWTON: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Just ahead here, kamikaze spacecraft. Why NASA is trying to change the course of an asteroid 11 million kilometers from earth.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- 2, 1, and lift off of the Falcon 9 and DART on NASA's --


NEWTON: All right, lift off.

NASA has just launched a spacecraft that will deliberately crash into a near-earth asteroid about 10 months from now. It is called DART, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

The target does not pose, we have to underscore here, not pose a threat to earth. But NASA wants to test the technology to see if it can change the asteroid's direction.

CNN's Michael Holmes has more.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's a space story seen several times in the movies. Like in the 1998 sci-fi film "Armageddon".

BRUCE WILLIS, ACTOR: The United States government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say no?

HOLMES: An asteroid threatens earth. The military, astronauts, even oil rig drillers try to save mankind. Some cities don't make it, but in the end the planet survives.

A Hollywood ending which NASA is hoping to make a reality with its first planetary defense test mission. Scientists say they have identified the kilometer-wide asteroids like those shown in the blockbusters and there are no dangers of them hitting earth in the coming centuries.

But NASA says it wants to study what could be done if an earth- threatening asteroid is discovered.

SHANE KIMBROUGH, NASA ASTRONAUT: DART is NASA's first planetary defense test. So we are going to -- we're going TO try to do something we've never done before with the spacecraft. DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, a nice acronym. NASA does like acronyms. DART is another one.

And now the purpose of the spacecraft and this mission -- it has one purpose. That's to crash itself into an asteroid and try to redirect it. Try to it move into a different orbit.

NANCY CHABOT, DART COORDINATION LEAD: These asteroids are not a threat to the earth. They are not a danger to the earth. They are not on a path to hit the earth in the foreseeable future. That makes them appropriate targets for a first test.

HOLMES: Traveling at a speed of 6.6 kilometers a second, DART will then deliberately crash into the moonlet to try to jolt it from its regular orbit.

Scientists back on earth will monitor the collusion using satellite imagery and ground based telescopes to see how much the moonlet changes course.


ANDY CHENG, DART INVESTIGATION LEAD TEAM: If one day an asteroid is discovered on a collision course with earth, then we have an idea of how big that asteroid is and how fast it's coming and when it will hit. That kind of information.

Then we will have an idea of how much momentum we need to make that asteroid miss the earth.

HOLMES: The targeted moonlet is a little larger than one of the pyramids in Egypt. NASA says there are 10,000 known asteroids that are just as big or bigger that could potentially cause major regional damage if they ever hit the earth although none of them are tracking this way.

Dart's kamikaze mission could provide lifesaving data if anything ever does get too close.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


NEWTON: Parts of India are still up to their knees in floodwaters, following recent monsoon rain. Bangalore is waiting for the water to recede. Meantime after four local lakes overflowed Sunday, despite the high waters, a number of motorists ventured out into the streets. Rescue teams are also out with relief materials.

Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin joins me with the latest.

Tyler, I know that they're used to this this time of year, but they've really been inundated here.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's been really tough down in southern India. Unfortunately, we are going to continue to see images like this in the days to come.

We have an area of low pressure coming out of the Bay of Bengal, moving west and that area of lower pressure is really confined to Sri Lanka and southern India. So that is where the heaviest of rains will be falling.

And the rain is going to fall over the same areas over and over and over again. That is how the rain piles up very quickly.

We saw areas of about 5 centimeters of rain fall in southern India. But we've also seen areas of rainfall totals as high as 7 centimeters in some spots, some isolated spots.

Over the next three days, and then in the coming days -- this coming 72 hours. We need to be prepared for more on the way of rainfall in the same region because of that area of low pressure.

Notice how the rain just really piles up very quickly in the next two to three days. In some areas we could see 150 to maybe 250 additional millimeters of rainfall.

And really, the consistency across the region would be about 100 millimeters of rainfall. You can see how it moves from east to west across southern India.

Meanwhile up here across northern India, New Delhi, you're dry. You're not dealing with any rainfall at all.

Now what kind of impacts are we expecting here? Localized flooding of course. Inundation. We are also going to see visibility reduced and traffic impacted.

We could also see localized mudslides and landslides as well Paula. So that's something we have to keep a very close eye on.

NEWTON: Yes. A few really tough days ahead.

Tyler, thanks for that update. Appreciate it.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton.

My colleague Rosemary Church joins us right after this.