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Japan Reports One Case of Omicron Variant; More Countries Bans Travel to South Africa; Being Vaccinated is an Advantage; Honduras Political Landscape Changing; Ukraine Anticipates Coup by Russian- backed Group; Barbados Island Now a New Republic. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, what you should do right now to protect yourself from the Omicron variant. And what the world must finally do to beat back the pandemic.

She is accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls for her billionaire boyfriend. Now Ghislaine Maxwell is on trial with both sides putting Jeffrey Epstein at the center of their arguments.

Plus. Queen Elizabeth rules one less island today as Barbados raises the flags on the world's newest republic.

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us.

Well, we begin with the growing concern around the globe for the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. At least 19 countries and territories have confirmed cases of the mutation, among the latest Japan and the French island or Reunion out in the Indian Ocean.

Dozens of countries and territories have imposed travel bans and new restrictions in response to its spread. Experts racing to answer three key questions. Is the Omicron variant transmitted more easily? Is more severe or deadly? And will the vaccines work against it?

The World Health Organization says answers on transmission and severity could come within days. But assessing the vaccine's effectiveness will take two to four weeks.


ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: There are a few things that we don't know about the vaccine. But there are a few things that we know for certain. We don't know if it will be more virulent, we don't know if it's going to transmit faster or have a higher disease. We don't know if it will escape the perfection of our vaccines. But we do know the sequence of the virus. We have it. And this is how everything starts.


CHURCH (on camera): Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are already working on possible modifications to their vaccines to fight the new variant. In the meantime, experts say get the shot. Get a booster. Wear a face mask and practice social distancing.


PETER SINGER, SPECIAL ADVISER TO WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: Omicron is like a wakeup call as though we needed another wake-up call to vaccinate the world. This issue of vaccine equity with rates like 60 to 70 percent vaccination in the U.S. at 7 percent, 7 percent on the African continent, you got to wonder whether we really love our neighbor.

But the point I want to make here is that it's the smart thing to do because it's self-defeating not to do it. Because this is the way to make variant is to let the virus rage.


CHURCH (on camera): And CNN is covering this fast-developing story with our resources around the globe. We will hear this hour from correspondents in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

So, let's start in Japan, which has just confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant. It comes just one day after the government banned all foreign visitors to try to keep the virus at bay.

And CNN's Will Ripley joins us live from Hong Kong with more on this. Good to see you, Will. So, let's start with that case in Japan. What do we know about this first case in the country?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've learned more just in the last hour, Rosemary. This is a man coming in from Southern Africa in his 30's. The case was detected at Narita International Airport. And airports like Hong Kong International like Narita like airports across the region are really the first line of defense for many Asian countries as they have mandatory COVID testing upon arrival.

Here in Hong Kong, for example, you need to sit and wait for your result and then you head directly into a designated quarantine hotel like this one here at the airport where two cases of Omicron were first detected last week.

A third case has also been detected here in Hong Kong. Again, that incoming case from the airport. No local transmission of Omicron in Hong Kong detected at this stage.

In Japan, they don't have an astringent of a quarantine system in place. This positive case detected at the airport will go to a government facility.

But if somebody, somehow catches Omicron on a flight coming in and they don't test positive immediately there is a chance that they go into a self-isolation period where they would have interaction with other people out in the community.

And you can see how in that case the virus could spread in Japan which is part of the reason why instead of imposing a more strict quarantine system like the one here in Hong Kong or like the one in mainland China.

Where here, it's 21 days for most incoming travelers even if they're vaccinated. In mainland, it's a month, sometimes up to seven weeks depending on where were coming from and what they were doing.


In Japan, it is a more of kind of like an honor system of quarantine unless you test positive at the airport or test positive subsequently when you were going to hospitals.

So, there is concern in Japan that was trying to keep Omicron out. Now it's already there, albeit just one case detected at this stage but if this variant is truly as contagious as some scientist predict, especially with some countries reporting large clusters of positive cases on flights. Flight where people tested negative in the country in the days leading up to their flight, and by the time they land they're testing positive.

Well, that is certainly why you see a number of countries around the world imposing these travel bans. Japan and Israel were the most astringent. But I have to say, Rosemary, Hong Kong is getting up there. They've added 13 more countries to their nonresident arrival ban because of Omicron. Basically, any country in the world where Omicron has been detected.

People who are not Hong Kong residents are banned from entering. Hong Kong residents themselves will either have to go into a government quarantine facility for seven days first, then 14 days in a quarantine hotel or they'll have to spend 21 days in isolation at a quarantine hotel. And that is even if they are fully vaccinated. If they are not vaccinated, they may not be allowed to enter until they get vaccinated, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. All right. Will Ripley bringing us up to date there from his vantage point in Hong Kong. I appreciate that.

To France now which as we said, has detected its first case of the Omicron variant on Reunion Island. CNN's Cyril Vanier joins us live from Paris to talk more on this. So, Cyril what are you learning about this first confirmed French case?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first thing, Rosemary, and this is to some degree disturbing as we're learning that the confirmed case is a traveler who came back to the Reunion Island on November 19th. So, he's been there for a week. We don't know whether he's been isolated for all of that or whether there was delay during which perhaps he wasn't under isolation. And perhaps may have been spreading that variant of coronavirus. Now this is a 53-year-old man, he traveled to Mozambique via South

Africa so this is not community transmission, this is another case of the Omicron variant being imported from one of those Southern African states to which European countries have mostly closed their doors now and their airports.

We know that he was symptomatic but only mildly symptomatic. And we also know that the people he was traveling with, that's to say six other travelers have now been put under isolation in addition to this 53-year-old confirmed case of Omicron, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Cyril, new restrictions are in place in the U.K. as well to combat Omicron. What can you tell us about that?

VANIER: Absolutely. Look, you are seeing multiple countries, in fact almost all countries in the European area take preventive measures to try and contain the spread of Omicron. So, there are multiple measures that have been announced by the U.K. effective today.

One is very simply that there is now a mask mandate in stores and on public transport. Remember at the beginning of the summer during Freedom Day when the U.K. started relaxing restrictions, they didn't make it mandatory to wear masks in confined indoor spaces. Now it is indeed mandatory.

Also, as regards to travel restrictions, people coming into the U.K. have to self-isolate until they take a test two days after arrival and they get a negative course of course. Lastly, the JCVI, that is to say the body that advises the U.K. government on vaccines has now advised that booster shots begin to all adults, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, very important. This is indeed a wakeup call for everyone, isn't it? Cyril Vanier joining us live from Paris, many thanks.

And for many experts the emergence of the Omicron variant is hardly surprising. For months, they have been sounding the alarm warning that global vaccine inequity could have serious consequences. Take a listen.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The more transmission, the more variants. And the more variants that emerge the more likely it is that they could evade vaccines. And as long as the virus is circulating anywhere, the longer global recovery will take.

More than 5.7 billion doses have been administered globally. But only 2 percent of those have been administered in Africa. This does not only hurt the people of Africa. It hurts all of us. The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing.


Omicron's very emergence is another reminder that although many of us might think we're done with COVID-19, it's not done with us.


CHURCH: And for more we want to bring in CNN's Eleni Giokos, she joins us live from Johannesburg. Good to see you again, Eleni.

So, the WHO, as you just heard, has been warning the world about variants like Omicron for some time now due to vaccine inequality. Now add travel restrictions on top of that. How are Southern African countries reacting to all of this?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, we knew it was inevitable because the variants have been emerging since the pandemic started. And of course, low vaccination rates in Africa has been one of the biggest issues that has been discussed over and over again.

Look, we have the Red Cross saying that this is going to plunge more African countries into poverty that these travel bans are impulsive and ineffective. The Malawian president said that this is not based on scientific evidence rather that it's Afro phobic.

You also heard from the South African president saying it's discriminatory and that G20 commitments and promises were not kept.

We're sitting in a situation at the moment where you have Southern African countries, South Africa Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe being targeted. And interestingly, if you look at the case load in terms of where Omicron has been detected right now, it's been in almost all continents but not in some of these Southern African countries.

Important to note here, South Africa has very advanced genomic sequencing which means that the country was able to detect Omicron and alert the world and now sequencing is occurring on Omicron to see exactly where it is prevalent.

We are also looking at the economic impacts of Omicron and these new bans on Southern Africa. It is going to be absolutely devastating, Rosemary. The South African government has been very clear on this, they have been trying to kickstart the economy once again.

Interestingly, I was here for a huge trade fair that was focusing on Southern Africa and how to ensure that economic prosperity continues despite the pandemic. And African countries have been hard hit. In fact, you've seen recessions coming through in so many of these countries.

But tourism sector was one important way to try and increase foreign revenues. Now that is of course absolutely mute. You are seeing countries instituting travel bans on African counties.

And unfortunately, Rosemary, the fear is that this is going to increase until we get more clinical data about what Omicron means in terms of vaccine efficacy in terms of severe illness, and importantly, whether it's more transmissible. CHURCH: Yes, of course. So, so many more questions than answers right

now. But Eleni, how extensive is the spread of this new variant across the African continent. Do we know?

GIOKOS: Well, in South Africa in particular we know that it is starting to become a lot more prevalent than Delta. So that is of concern. But the current caseload, the positive caseload on a daily basis in South Africa is just 2,800 positive cases.

I'd like to compare that to what you see in the rest of the world, specifically in Europe where you see tens of thousands of positive cases. Now it is important to note that there aren't that many tests that are conducted on a daily basis if you compare, you know, African cases compared to what you are seeing in Europe.

But where it is found right now according to CNN data, it is being identified in Botswana and South Africa. So that is why there's been so much backlash in terms of seeing the travel bans that have, you know, are across the South African region as oppose to focusing on just the countries where it has been identified.

CHURCH: All right. Eleni Giokos joining us live from Johannesburg. Many thanks.

And coming up, changing of the guard. Barbados has a new head of state after nearly 400 years. And why the political landscape in Honduras is on the verge of a historic change. Back in just a moment.



CHURCH (on camera): There it is. Barbados is waking up to a new era after 400 years. The island nation is now a republic. Cutting their last remaining ties to the British monarchy.

Prince Charles attended the transition ceremony where he was bestowed the country's highest-ranking honor, the Order of Freedom. In a speech he reaffirmed the friendship between Barbados and the U.K.


CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES: The creation of this republic offers a new beginning. But it also marks a point on a continuum. A milestone on the long road you have not only traveled but which you have built. From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery which forever stains our history, the people of this island forge their path with extraordinary fortitude.

Emancipation, self-government, and independence were your way points. Freedom, justice, and self- determination have been your guides. Your long journey has brought you to this moment not as your destination but as a vantage point from which to survey a new horizon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH (on camera): Seventy-three-year-old Sandra Mason is now the first ever president of Barbados. She says true independence was a long time coming.


SANDRA MASON, PRESIDENT OF BARBADOS: Our country and our people must dream big dreams and fight to realize them. As poet James Stephens puts it, we must learn that we are better than our clay and equal to the peaks of our desire.

I was born and grew up in the time of colonialism and witness Barbados' independence. I am part of the bridge generation from the colonial past to the independent nation, to the future of the new republic.


CHURCH (on camera): Barbados still plans to remain part of the commonwealth, a 54-member organization of mostly former British territories.

It's deja vu in Sweden. Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson has been elected prime minister, a gain just days after she'd already won the job and quickly resigned. Andersson quit hours after she was elected last week when her proposed budget was defeated and her coalition government broke down.

Now Sweden's first female prime minister plans to form a minority government. Her social Democrats only hold 100 of the 349 seats in parliament, meaning she will need the support of other parties to pass legislation.

Honduras appears on the brink of major political change. Xiomara Castro is poised to become the country's next president 12 years after her husband was ousted in a coup. She ran in a field of more than a dozen candidates, and if she wins, she'll become the country's first female president.




UNKNOWN (through translator): Sadly, men have lost credibility after mismanaging corruption, abuse of power, personal ambition, leadership battles, and special interests. Today, history has been written in Honduras, and I think women should be proud of having a woman guiding a country marred by poverty and corruption.


CHURCH (on camera): CNN's Patrick Oppmann has more on the election.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A political earthquake maybe taking place in Honduras where the wife of a former president deposed in a military coup is inching towards an electoral victory.

Leftist candidate Xiomara Castro has not yet been declared the winner of the election, at least not yet, but she is leading in the vote count over the national party of sitting President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Castro would be, if elected, the first president, first female president in Honduras' history.

She has vowed if she does win this election to fight corruption and official ties with drug traffickers. That's a reference to accusations that sitting President Juan Orlando Hernandez has allowed Honduras to become a trans shipping point for drugs heading to the United States.

Hernandez has denied those accusations. In 2019 though, he was implicated in the trial of his brother in the United States on charges of drug trafficking. His brother eventually was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. It remains to be seen whether Hernandez himself will face charges in the United States once he leaves office. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Castro is feared by some in Honduras that she will lead a tilt to the left. If she is elected that she will essentially ally herself with Venezuela and Cuba with a socialist government in those countries. But Castro has said that she is willing to working to fight inequality and poverty in Honduras over the conditions that are leading to a surge in migration of Hondurans to the United States.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.

CHURCH: If Ukraine's president is right, his government will be the target of a Russian-backed coup attempt by the middle of this week. The Kremlin calls it nonsense. But in Kiev they are still worried about threats from inside and outside the country.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports from the capital.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is certainly some tension in the Ukraine. There's been a lot of concern express recently about the buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine's borders. Potentially posing a threat of invasion. Something by the way, that's been strongly denied by the Kremlin in Moscow.

And of course, late last week, the Ukrainian president poured even more fuel on the fire by announcing that a coup plot had been uncovered involving Russians and Ukrainians plotting to overthrow the government here in just a few days from now, actually on the first he said or on the second of December.

So, when I got an opportunity to put a question to the country's foreign minister, I asked him about the latest thinking on that coup.


CHANCE: Do you think the threat of a Russian-backed coup is still real today or has that threat now receded?

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: External military pressure goes hand in hand with domestic destabilization of the country. So we look very seriously in the information available to us to the government of Ukraine at this stage when it comes to the potential coup in Ukraine. And we remain extremely vigilant.

Our law enforcement agencies are examining this information, and we will of course provide -- provide our partners with this with the updates as they arrive. But I want to be clear that if -- if Russia decides to resort to the last measure of military offensive operation, it will undoubtedly be preceded or accompanied by systemic and bold attempts to destabilize Ukraine from the inside by all means available to Russia.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, the U.S. is also been warning of the Russian threat. But Ukrainian officials complain that the United States is also been resisting calls to reimpose sanctions on Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.


Well, in a rare admission of difference in Washington the Ukrainian foreign minister told me that the U.S. and Ukraine were still at odds over how to deal with the pipeline and how to prevent this important strategic project from Russia from being weaponized to threaten Ukraine and to prevent Europe from becoming even more dependent on Russian gas.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kiev.

CHURCH: Still to come, Germany is facing one of its worst pandemic moments as the healthcare system struggle to cope with the surge in COVID cases.

And talks on Iran's nuclear program resume. How diplomats are characterizing the negotiations. Back with that and more in just a moment.


CHURCH (on camera): Japan and the French island of Reunion are the latest to confirm cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The mutation has now been found in at least 19 countries and territories including Australia, Canada, the U.K., and Hong Kong.

The World Health Organization's governing body will meet again in Geneva today. Declaring on Monday the overall risk from the Omicron variant is very high. The first sampling of the mutation was taken November 9th because of a surge of cases in South Africa.

Experts there say the strain appears to spread quickly but it's too soon to say if the variant is more deadly, causes more severe disease or is resistant to vaccines. The top infectious disease expert in the U.S. is offering familiar advice. Take a listen.


DISEASES: We want to get a lot more people who were eligible to be boosted, boosted. Vaccination is going to be the solution to this, whether it's the Delta variant or whether it's the Omicron variant. Vaccination is going to be the solution.


CHURCH (on camera): Meanwhile, dozens of countries have rushed to impose new rules and travel bans to try to slow the spread.

CNN's Athena Jones breaks down how the variant became so troubling so fast.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The president calling for calm.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.

JONES: As Omicron, a new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa spreads around the world.

PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: This is a new wrench that's being thrown into the fight against COVID.

UNKNOWN: It is certainly not good news.

JONES: Raising new urgent questions.

UNKNOWN: We don't know everything we need to know about this new variant yet.

FAUCI: We don't know yet what the level of severity will be.

JONES: Omicron has at least 50 mutations including some shared with the highly contagious Delta variant that drove a deadly summer surge in the United States.


The new variant has become the most dominant strain in South Africa less than two weeks after it was first detected.


The strain now confirmed on five continents in more than a dozen countries including Canada. The U.S. joining the European Union and other countries in restricting travel from certain Southern African nations, a move health experts say may slow down the variant's spread but won't stop it.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: When you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries inevitably it will be here.

JONES: U.S. Federal Health officials are bracing for omicron to be detected here. With the CDC sequencing coronavirus genomes and working closely with state health officials. But it won't be clear for a few weeks how transmissible omicron is whether it causes more severe illness and whether it can evade the immune protection offered by vaccines.

SALIM ABDOOL KARM, CO-CHAIR SOUTH AFRICAN MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON COVID-19: The reality is we've only known about this virus for just over a week. So we don't really have the kind of data required to answer those questions definitively.

JONES: Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are working to get those answers.

ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: I don't think that the result will be that vaccines don't protect. I think the results could be which we don't know yet that the vaccines protect less.

JONES: Vaccine makers like Pfizer and Moderna stressing they are ready to respond quickly if changes to their vaccines are needed.

PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: We think within you know weeks maybe two to three months we would be able to have an omicron specific vaccine booster available for testing and then for administration.

JONES: And until more is known about the new variant, health officials say the best way to protect yourself is for the still unvaccinated to get vaccinated. And for those eligible for booster shots to get them.

FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: We expect that most likely the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection and especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection.

JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): CNN spoke with a doctor who was one of the first to suspect a new variant was circulating. She says, most of the symptoms seemed mild and most of the cases she found were in people under 40. Take a listen.


ANGELIQUE COETZEE, CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Listen, if you have this extreme fatigue, this (inaudible) of feeling, I'm not feeling very well, something is wrong and the other thing that they will also will tell me is that it starts with the scratchy throat. It's not a sore throat, it's just a scratch. Like very scratchy, it is very interesting. And sort of a dry cough but not the same dry cough that we have seen

previously. It is like an irritation not very prominent either. So this is, so, if you are as a patient out there, are suffering from any of these types of very, very mild symptoms that the idea is, please go and get yourself tested.


CHURCH: And Canada has confirmed a third case of the omicron variant and the country's health minister says, they expect more such cases will be detected as testing continues.

CNN's Paula Newton with more.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Canada maybe offering us a glimpse into how far this new variant has already traveled all over the globe. Now, here in Canada, they say that they have confirmed three cases of the new variant. But those cases are related to travel from Nigeria not the Southern African countries that are part of the travel ban. Here in Canada the United States, Europe and in many other countries around the world.

For that reason, Canada says that it continues to investigate dozens more cases and it fully expects to identify more cases in the coming days. What is especially interesting though is the case that was confirmed by authorities in Hong Kong. That was a fully vaccinated man who traveled a few days ago from Vancouver to Hong Kong and has since also tested positive for omicron, that new variant.

What is interesting here is the fact that that person as far as Hong Kong officials know does not have any travel history to Africa. It is leading many health officials to be very, very cautious about these new cases. In fact here in Canada, anyone who has traveled to those counties must now isolate for at least 14 days. They are also asking for close contact and family members to also isolate.

Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


CHURCH: Germany has already detected a fourth case of the omicron variant as it battles a massive COVID-19 wave. Experts say one of the key reasons for these surges is the country's low vaccination rate. And as cases spike, intensive care units in Germany are reaching their limit.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Another tragic day in this ICU near Germany's capital Berlin. This 82-year-old woman's husband just died of COVID here. Now doctors and nurses are fighting for her life. When we asked if she surprised that she got the virus she shook her head, no, she says.

That is because Germany is currently suffering through the worst COVID outbreak since the pandemic began and most of those who end up in ICUs are unvaccinated or might have waning immunity because they are in need of a booster. This ICU's head says she fears things will deteriorate even more with the omicron variant already detected in Germany.

We are extremely concerned she says. We fear December, January, and February and believe things will become a lot more difficult.

The State Department has warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Germany as the country struggles to contain the latest wave of infections.

Germany has seen massive COVID-19 infection rates for weeks now. And a lot of those patients are now winding up in ICUs like this one and it is driving Germany's otherwise very robust health care system to the brink.

So bad that the German military has been called up to fly patients out of hard-hit areas. One reason for the disastrous numbers experts say despite having scientists, Angela Merkel, as its leader, Germany has some of the lowest vaccination rates in all of Western Europe.

Anti vax groups are extremely strong here and a recent study found that infection rates are high and stronghold of Germany's ultra-right- wing AFD Party which opposes measures to combat the pandemic.

While the government has now made booster shots widely available, medical professionals are calling for more drastic measures.

TOBIAS KURT, INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I'm afraid we have to go into lockdown hopefully a hard short lockdown with a clear vision what to do after.

PLEITGEN: And of course Germany is about to get a new government. Angela Merkel on Tuesday is going to meet with the incoming Chancellor, Olaf Scholz. And he has specifically not ruled out a lockdown for Germany especially as the omicron variant is looming in the midst of this devastating outbreak here in Germany.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


CHURCH: A rebound in financial markets doesn't seem to be lasting. U.S. markets are on track for a lower opened. Wall Street finished the day Monday with solid gains as President Biden said new lockdowns were off the table for now. But the trend has now reversed. Markets in Europe and Asia fell after the head of drug maker Moderna told "The Financial Times" that existing COVID vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the omicron variant. Iran nuclear talks resumed in Austria on Monday with expectations low

an actual results. Tehran has announced its willingness to reach a deal but only if the U.S. lifts sanctions. Israel is lobby hard against that releasing a report saying Iran is preparing to enrich uranium to the level needed to make a nuclear weapon.

Nic Robinson reports on the latest round of negotiations.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, it's not precisely clear what was discussed inside the meeting. The Russian representative inside of the room said that negotiations had started off in his words quite successfully. He said that they had agreed further immediate steps to be taken. He tweeted when the meeting began, he tweeted when the meeting ended and the space in between, about three hours. Now, that seems like a relatively short period of time for these parties.

Chinese, Russians, Iranians, British, French, Germans to be sitting around the table together for the first-time in earnest in over five months now. The United States of course in proximity and not in the same room, wants to get back in t these talks, it's been putting a lot of pressure on Iran and saying that the test of Iran in these talks will be that they will move forward not stall not go back compared to where the talks ended in June.

At the moment the United States, the United Kingdom believe that there is a good offer on the table for Iran that the door is open for diplomacy that they recognized with sanctions lifted they want to see Iran come into terms of the nuclear deal Iran at the moment is a long way out of compliance with the terms of the deal.

But at a moment, these seems to be the opening phase, how many more of talks again isn't clear. This diplomacy is shrouded in an element of secrecy but if the Russian diplomat in the room who is posting the photographs and giving the time updates and giving the only analysis that we have so far of how well it is going.


Nic Robinson, CNN, London.


CHURCH: Jeffrey Epstein's shadow looms large in his companion sex trafficking trial. Was Ghislaine Maxwell, he's partner in crime or a scapegoat for his abusers. The latest from the (inaudible). That's next.


CHURCH: The sex trafficking trial of Jeffrey Epstein's longtime companion resumes just hours from now in New York. Prosecutors are portraying Ghislaine Maxwell as a predator who created a network of underage victims for Epstein to sexually exploit. Maxwell's lawyers argue she is being used as a scapegoat for Epstein's abuse. More now from CNN's Brynn Gingras.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORREPOSNDENT (on camera): Later this morning the government first witness will again take the stand that is the former pilot of Jeffrey Epstein. This was after a full day of jury selection and opening statements from both the government and the defense.

And in those opening statements, of course, both sides were laying out their cases to the jurors in this federal courtroom. And essentially the government alleging that Ghislaine Maxwell recruited these women and groomed them to exploit them to Jeffrey Epstein.

Essentially saying anything that happened behind closed doors are on Jeffrey Epstein's properties, Ghislaine Maxwell knew it. She was the lady of the house and she played a part in the manipulation of these women and then in part was very much aware of what was going on with Jeffrey Epstein.

Now the defense says that she herself is a victim and that she is being vilified for the crimes that Jeffrey Epstein committed. So we are getting really a sneak peek of what both lawyers are going to lay out in this what is supposed to be a six-week trial for the six federal charges that Ghislaine Maxwell now faces.

And again testimony will pick back up later this morning with a former pilot of Jeffrey Epstein. And we are expected to hear from the government, four witnesses' alleged accusers who will talk about the part that they played, the part they believe Ghislaine Maxwell played in their victimization. Back to you.

CHURCH: Shan Wu is a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. He joins me now from Washington. Great to have you with us.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you.

CHURCH: So Ghislaine Maxwell is accused of trafficking teenage girls to have sex with Jeffrey Epstein but the defense strategy in this criminal trial is to attack the victim's credibility and say Maxwell was a scapegoat for Epstein, while prosecution will focus on what they perceive as her critical role in Epstein's life. Which side has the heavier lift and what will you be watching out for?

WU: Well, the prosecution always has the heavier lift. They have the burden of proof. And here they have a case which they have significant challenges with. It's an older case and therefore the evidence and the recollection of the witnesses is going to be subject to attack and criticism because of the age of it.


So, what I will be watching for is, it is clear that the defense strategy is to attack the credibility of these victims, and that's a risky strategy because you can certainly end up having it backfire and making the victims more sympathetic. So we will be looking to see how that cross-examination goes by the defense and how sympathetic the victims will come across. CHURCH: And of course on Monday Maxwell's defense attorney painted

her as a scapegoat for the sins of Epstein. How will that strategy likely play particularly given not one man in this case is being prosecuted?

WU: Yeah. That's an interesting atmospheric fits going on here. I think there is very powerful atmospherics of what we would think of his guilt by association. Even the prosecutions indictment has pictures of Maxwell and Epstein together.

So they are certainly focusing on this idea that she was very close to him and not only must she have known what was going on but her very role was to help him manage things and must have been managing these crimes as well.

I think the defense is on to something when they want to argue that, you know, she is a scapegoat. She's the closest they can get to Epstein but that is not really going to help them particularly if there is evidence of her actually committing these sexual abuses as well.

And so that's really going to be the tension there is who can portray their image more strongly? Can the defense maker seem like a victim herself, a victim of Epstein and now being victimized by the system as a scapegoat? Or can the prosecution succeed and really painting her as look at this person, she herself did wrong and she was in on the rest of these crimes.

CHURCH: And you mentioned this at the top. I do want to look at how much the passing of time will play a role in this trial. You know, how will the defense use this to put in doubt the memories of these victims?

WU: There's always a way to attack memories of crimes which have occurred a long time ago and I understand that they're going to be using a memory expert so to speak I think Dr. Loftus (ph) and I've been on with her before and she is very well respected.

But, you know, she really just supplies the science which to me as a former prosecutor and trial lawyer that we all know that memory is not infallible. And she provides some of the science for it. So I don't know ultimately how much mileage you can get out of that. It is not as though she's going to be in a position to comment on the credibility or their bad modus of the witnesses.

She can only allay the scientific background for memories can be fallible, people can be influenced and we will have to see what the defense can really do with that because they have to supply something from the jury that shows there is bad motive and they need to crack the demeanor of some of these complainants.

CHURCH: Right. So, in the end how much evidence is there for the prosecution to work with or will this eventually come down to a he said-she said scenario?

WU: I think it won't be the classic he said-she said scenario which by the way that's sort of Dr. Loftus' specialty because there is so much other evidence to corroborate what is happening. There should be documents or the records of the travel. They have numerous other witnesses who worked for Epstein, all to corroborate the recollection of the witnesses.

So it's not simply a situation like some cases I tried, where you just have the word of an adult remembering something that happened a long time ago as a child and the defendants denying it. Here, of course, Epstein is not around to deny it and Maxwell has the additional cushion of saying well maybe that happened but I don't know.

So, I don't think it would be a very classic he said-she said. I do think the prosecution has had time to give themselves a lot of corroborating evidence and probably a lot of witnesses who corroborated as well.

CHURCH: Alright. We'll continue to follow this of course. Shan Wu, many thanks for joining us. We appreciate your analysis.

WU: You're welcome.

CHURCH: Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey, is stepping down from the company he cofounded more than 15 years ago. The change is effective immediately with Twitter's chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal taking over as CEO. Addressing his exit, Dorsey released a statement saying in part, "I've decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders. My trust in Parag, as Twitter's CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational."


And still to come a new report warns of the impact climate change is having on the destructive power of typhoons and how much stronger they will get.

We will have more on that.


CHURCH: Flood ravaged British Columbia is extending its state of emergency to December 14th, the third storm to hit the Canadian province in weeks is forecast for tonight through Wednesday. Thousands of people already have been forced from their home because of flooding and landslides.

A new study finds tropical cyclones in Asia could be twice as destructive by the end of the century. Scientists say the man-made climate crisis is already making them stronger. The study suggests an average cyclone by the end of the century will last around five hours longer and travel 92 kilometers farther inland nearly doubling their destructive power.

And our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, has been taking a very close look at this study. He joins us now. Pedram, cyclones twice as destructive by the end of the century? I mean, that is a real concern. What more are you learning?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): It is and you know when you look at the data, you look at exactly how things have played out in recent years, Rosemary, all of this certainly adds up. And the data actually from Shenzhen Institute of Metrological Innovation, the study of the -- about four decades had been, going back from 1979, ending in 2016, specifically across portions of Eastern Asia and Southern and Southeastern China in particular.

They noticed that land falling tropical systems across that region had dramatically increased in how destructive they were. They were lasting as you said much longer on land even after making landfall and then also tracking farther inland. So you put all of this together, certainly it has the recipe and one is making here, to make this so much more destructive system.

And every system on average kind of ranges from about two hour longer life cycle to as much as nine-hour longer life cycle. So again a wide variety but even just from four decades ago were talking about storms that are lasting a minimum of two hours longer overland before they begin to dissipate.

And as you noted, traveling some 100 kilometers farther inland since the past 40 or so years. But when you look this area carefully, Southeastern China and Northern Vietnam, capital city there of Hanoi, probably the hardest-hit region within the time period of this study and, of course, we know a lot of the reasons why this is taking place.

Since our planet has warmed on the order of 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, a lot of that heat energy, people often surprise to learned that our ocean retains about 90 percent of our planets excess heat energy. And that heat transfers into the energy that fuels these storm systems.

So when you have additional excess heat, of course, you increase the water vapor in the atmosphere, meaning the moisture content of these storms is elevated. On average that's up about 7 percent since (inaudible) and warmed. And it's going to continue to increase as temps continue to rise.

But you notice other data from the study kind of going back since 1949, globally speaking. We've noticed with a warmer environment, storms have decreased their forward progression. Their speed has decreased as well. So not only are they tracking farther inland, Rosemary, they are doing so at a much slower pace so it is leading to additional destruction on these coastal communities and even further inland as well. So certainly, another sobering study, Rosemary.


CHURCH: The last thing everybody needs, right? Pedram Javaheri, many thanks for bringing us up to date on that study. We appreciate it.

Well, scores in New Delhi are back open after a two-week shutdown due to smog. Students return to classes Monday but the spike in air pollution remains a top concern. Lower temperatures and a drop in wind speed had contributed to a thick smog hovering over the Indian capital. The polluted air is sending more and more children to the hospital with breathing problems.

On Monday was an important day for the Boston, Celtics center, Enes Kanter. The Turkish native officially became a U.S. citizen and changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom. Before the citizenship ceremony he explained why the name change holds such an important meaning.


ENES KANTER FREEDOM, BOSTON, CELTICS CENTER: When I came to America to me it was so amazing because, you know, here, there was freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of press which I didn't have any of those in Turkey. So that is why I wanted to make that word a part of me.


CHURCH: Freedom is also known for speaking out on human rights issues in the past, drawing the ire of both Turkey and China. The NBA player has repeatedly criticized the Turkish president and in return and his social media accounts blocked in the country. He most recently has spoken out against the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics calling for the games to be moved to another host nation.

Well, Tiger Woods says his days as a full-time golfer are over. He spoke with "Golf Digest" about his future for the first time since his car crash back in February. Woods suffered serious leg injuries and says he will now pick and choose a few golf events to play each year.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It's an unfortunate reality but it's my reality. And I understand it, I accepted. Just hopefully I can have the time off on the right terms.


CHURCH: Woods says he is not even at the halfway point of his rehabilitation and he is also dealing with issues from his five back surgeries.

I want to thank you so much for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. I will be back though with another hour of "CNN Newsroom" after this short break. Do stay with us. You're watching CNN. Stick around.