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Putin's New Year's Address Focused On Pandemic; Remembering Desmond Tutu; Countries Around The World Ring In 2022; Omicron's Threat To U.S. Economic Recovery; Colorado's Marshall Fire Tears Through Communities Near Boulder; Betty White Dies At 99. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired January 01, 2022 - 05:00   ET




CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: "Speak out, charge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and the needy."

He was not content to decry apartheid at conferences or benefit concerts or international foras (sic). He was there with the Freedom Fighters, confronting the apartheid regime and confronting -- comforting its victims.

He was not content to preach about social justice from the pulpit. He was with the homeless, the helpless, the persecuted, the sick and the destitute, in the streets, in the shelters and in homes.

He embraced all who had ever felt the cold wind of exclusion and they, in turn, also embraced him. He sought to emulate Jesus Christ, who embraced all those who society looked down upon and rejected.

Throughout his life, he became involved in causes both here at home and abroad that went to the very heart of the quest for social justice. Through the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, he was involved in the treatment and care of people living with HIV and AIDS and the provision of health care services to adolescents and the empowerment of young women.

He was an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause and, in 2014, he wrote a powerful article, calling on the Israelis and Palestinians to find each other and to make peace.

In his words, "Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other and to understand their interdependence."

He advocated for the LGBTQI+ rights and decried all forms of violence and discrimination against this community.

Speaking of hate crimes perpetrated against the LGBTQI+ plus community, in a powerful video message marking 20 years since the World Conference on Human Rights, he said, "I oppose such injustice with the same passion that I oppose apartheid." One of the causes that was dear to him and less well known to many of

us was campaigning together with Her Royal Highness Mabel van Oranje, who is here with us today, against child marriage across the globe.

I have learned how the Arch Traveled to villages in Ethiopia, in India and Zambia, to understand the circumstances under which young girls were being forced into marriage.

He also took up this cause with the elders. Mary Robinson, part of the elders, is here, and Graca Machel is also here, the group of senior leaders brought together by president Nelson Mandela in 2007.

Such was his stamina, such was to commitment of social justice for all, that he took out the cudgels on behalf of millions of people around the world. Many would know his name but many would not.

But he did make a difference in taking up their causes. He never stopped fighting. He never stopped speaking out. And he never stopped caring.

Since the passing of our beloved Arch, we've been looking back on his life, on the part he played in our transition to democracy and to his towering role as a chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


RAMAPHOSA: Today, 27 years after the advent of our democracy, we can still say, with certainty, that what we have achieved as a country was nothing short of a miracle.

We could have chosen the path of retribution. But the project of national reconciliation, of recognizing the injustices of our past, set us apart from many societies in transition.

Alongside president Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu helped to steer our nation through this very challenging and painful period. The heart-rending testimonies of many who had suffered and lost loved ones were broadcast for all to see.

Their accounts opened deep apartheid wounds but they also opened a window, not only for the formally oppressed to know what had happened to their loved ones but also to the white minority community, to know what crimes had been committed and perpetrated in their name.

Helping us to come to terms with the past was among the most arduous tasks of our new nation. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu played a seminal role in this whole process. At Madiba's request, he led the Truth and Reconciliation Process with integrity and humility.

While our beloved Madiba was the father of our democracy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the spiritual father of our new nation. In considering how fortunate we are as a country to have been blessed with these two global icons, we think about the street in Soweto, the only street in the whole world that was home to two Nobel peace laureates. And we think how both of these two icons of our country played

different but complementary roles in forging the nation that we are today.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been our moral compass but he's also been our national conscience. Even after the advent of democracy, he did not hesitate to draw attention, often harshly, to our shortcomings, as leaders of the democratic state.

He saw our country as a rainbow nation, emerging from the shadow of apartheid, united in its diversity, with freedom and equal rights for all. The Arch would teach us many things, the importance of having the courage of one's convictions, solidarity with the oppressed, delivering on the promises made by the constitution and many others.

But it was with this term, rainbow nation, that he bequeathed our new nation the greatest gift of all, hope and forgiveness, hope and forgiveness for a better tomorrow, hope for a country free of tyranny and hope for a society, where all of the people of South Africa, irrespective of their religious affiliation, their gender, their race, their origin, could live side by side in harmony.

Where he first spoke about us as a rainbow nation, South Africa was a different place and we were going through a very difficult time. We are still finding our feet on our long road to nationhood.


RAMAPHOSA: He's left us at another difficult time in the life of our nation. Problems and challenges abound and they are everywhere. Poverty and inequality, racism, homophobia, gender-based violence, crime and corruption have left many people disenchanted.

There are times when he felt let down. And yet he never lost hope. The most fitting tribute we can pay to him, whoever and wherever we are, is to take up the cause of social justice for which he tirelessly campaigned throughout his life.

Archbishop Tutu has left a formidable legacy and we are enormously diminished by his passing; his life struggle, an epic in our country's history that has now come to an end. Though we say goodbye to him today, with the heaviest of hearts, we salute our beloved Arch for all that he did to help build this nation.

We thank him for giving us hope, for reminding us of our responsibility as a people but more especially also as leaders and for giving us a reason to believe that we are and that we can be a true rainbow nation that he spoke about.

We celebrate him for what he was, life. To Mama Leah and the family, our nation shares in your sorrow. On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, we thank you for sharing your husband, your father, your brother, uncle and grandfather with us. We know it was not easy and yet you did so willingly.

He belongs to all of us and it is all of us who mourn him. But today, we celebrate his life. I recently came across these words, which provide a fitting end to any tribute to Desmond Tutu.

"Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully or just completely, the correct response to death's perfect punctuation mark is a smile."

His was a life lived honestly and completely. He has left the world a better place. And he has left our country a much better place than we were prior to our democracy. We remember him with a smile, the type of smile that he would have flashed around. And we say farewell, father, servant of God, rest in peace. Thank you.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: And we have been listening in to the eulogy for Archbishop Desmond Tutu. That was South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, delivering the eulogy there. And we want to bring in David McKenzie, standing outside the cathedral in Cape Town, St. George's Cathedral.

The eulogy touched on so many points, called him a global icon, saying he enriched the lives of all those he met and, of course, the spiritual father of our new nation. And he was, of course, talking about the post-apartheid South Africa.

What stuck out for you, David?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think what stuck out for me is just how much this man achieved in his life. And you can see there, the blue skies coming out here, at St. George's Cathedral. Earlier it was raining pretty hard and it feels like a moment for South Africa, a bookend as it were.


MCKENZIE: As the president said, this man, Desmond Tutu, was one of the few people you could really say was a global icon, not an icon in terms of celebrity, though he was a famous man, but an icon in terms of his impact on social justice.

And as you say, the spiritual father to the democratic nation of South Africa, the president talked about the images we all know of Desmond Tutu. And if you're not aware of them, I urge our viewers to look them up.

This man, the short man, who had the heart of a lion, a brave spiritual leader, who would be willing to face up personally against the apartheid police and later always willing to speak his mind.

He referred to his moments here at the cathedral, standing in the line against the apartheid police. He referred to them at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, dealing with the atrocities of South Africa's painful past and shouldering them, weeping in public, when the testimony was heard of a man who that had been tortured by those same police.

And he spoke about the genuine, the genuine way that this man was for social justice, across the world, in many different causes, even until his death. And it certainly will be a sad day today. And he ended his eulogy though, with a full life like this, you should smile at the memory of Desmond Tutu.

NEWTON: Perhaps the parting of the skies there and the sunshine is the smile figuratively that we can all take from the celebration of the Arch's life. David McKenzie, we appreciate you being by our side through all of this in Cape Town.

And we now go to William Gumede, the executive chairperson of the Democracy Works Foundation. He knew the archbishop from his work in South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And he joins me now from Johannesburg.

And our deep condolences as well to you. This is a profound loss for so many in South Africa. We just heard that eulogy and from others, obviously talking about his life's work resonating with so many. You worked with him.

What would you like us to know about the convictions and how he pursued?

WILLIAM GUMEDE, EXECUTIVE CHAIRPERSON, DEMOCRACY WORKS FOUNDATION: Thank you for having me. I think this is the end of an era in South Africa and I think, you know, many people will feel a deep sense of loss.

And some will even feel leaderless, because he provided spiritual leadership but he provided political leadership. And although he was not a politician, what stands out to me is he really was a man of the soil.

He was honest, he lived his values and he was grounded in his faith and he was always acting in the best interest of everyone. And he was a very, very caring and authentic leader.

NEWTON: And a man of the soil. And in fact, in some of the eulogies there, we do hear how he was really inspired by Jesus to really be with people, among their struggles, and not just preach from the pulpit.

As so many of us now have had the opportunity to review his life and, unfortunately, at that point, you are reviewing the cruel, dehumanizing effects of apartheid, the more relevant all of this is seeming obviously, with everything so many people are struggling through around the world.

In terms of what you do and that pursuit of democracy, social justice, he really was a radical, wasn't he?

GUMEDE: Absolutely. I mean he was a courageous writer. And I think he is also leaving a very important intellectual tradition in South Africa. You know, the critical, he was critically loyal. So he was loyal of course, to the anti-apartheid cause and also critical not only to the apartheid government of course but also critical to the liberation fighters when they do wrong. And that was during the apartheid years but also the post-apartheid era. You know, he was the same, he was critical of even Nelson Mandela. I remember, in 1994, a couple of days after Mandela assumed office, he was very critical of Mandela.

He says why do you accept all of the benefits and the huge challenges that the apartheid government has?

And why did you inherit it, why did you take a cut, why didn't you take a cut of at least half of the benefits?


GUMEDE: So you know, he had the ability or rather the courage to talk to power to his own size and also to the other side.

NEWTON: I'm struck just by the way you are speaking of him and again, pointing out that he would criticize anyone if he thought that he had that moral authority to do so.

You know, here in the United States, there is, of course, the civil rights leader, John Lewis, who said good trouble, you should get into good trouble.

As far as the archbishop was concerned, there is a debate about tactics, right, and these things are debated fiercely.

Should you be violent or nonviolent, should reform come from within the system or a toppling of the system altogether?

Can you give us some insights now that he is being laid to rest and so many people want to carry out his legacy in social justice, what would be his clear-headed approach to what people should do now?

GUMEDE: I think, you know, he stood for nonviolence. For him, it was a principle. And it was quite important in the country, because, you know, the apartheid state was violent. And from the 1970s on, the liberation struggle also became violent in response to the violence in the apartheid state.

So we had a cycle of violence in the country and he stood out for his nonviolence. The idea that nonviolence can lead to freedom, can lead to peace and it was very important and it can also lead to reconciliation. It is important.

I think the second one is the idea of forgiveness, not forgetting but forgiveness, as an active act and in reconciliation. Now reconciliation -- and not to stay in the past -- but to build up the future, based on truth.

And I think these are very important, not only in South Africa but in many places of conflict, where that there an important part of moving on is to forgive and to reconcile, both at a community level but also at the personal level.

NEWTON: And when these things are based in faith, as he wanted them to be, as you said, it is very much a personal act that you forgive.

As you were speaking, we were watching again that very simple coffin at St. George's Cathedral. William Gumede, I do thank you for your contributions to us, understanding his legacy, I can hear the emotion in your voice and we thank you so much for bringing us that perspective on his life. Appreciate it.

GUMEDE: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now turning to other news here, President Putin's New Year's message doesn't mention the deepening crisis with the West over Ukraine but he did praise Russians for their resilience in the face of the ongoing pandemic. A live report from Moscow is straight ahead.





NEWTON: You are seeing there the casket of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This is the end of his official state service, being laid to rest out there in Cape Town, South Africa, outside the St. George's Cathedral, the same cathedral from where he preached as he was eulogized as the spiritual father of South Africa.

And with many there, asking, with people around the world, asking the tribute to him, to continue his advocacy for social justice around the world.

Other news here, Russian president Vladimir Putin delivered the annual New Year's address at the stroke of midnight across Russia's numerous time zones. But he didn't mention the high stakes phone call that he had the day before with U.S. President Joe Biden.

Nor did he refer to the thousands of Russian troops now amassed along the border with Ukraine. Instead Mr. Putin praised Russians for their perseverance during the pandemic. CNN's Nic Robertson following it all for us.

And Russians have been suffering quite a bit during the pandemic and it is not over and they surpassed the record for deaths for the month of November.

In terms of the tone from Putin's address, what did you make of it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It was an internal message, rather than external; yes, we'll defend the security of the country and the security of the nation, the security of the citizens consistently. That's what he said.

But the raw message was sort of to uplift the nation, you know, with, we face many challenges, we've done it together through solidarity, everyone's doing their little bit. And you know, it was the tone of message. So it was an effort to uplift

Embrace your family, take this time of year, to tell the personal messages and hug your family, indeed. But you know, the pandemic and, as you mentioned there, the figures of last year have been pretty bad.

I mean Russia's tracking in terms of its vaccination rate, it's lagging many other nations, you know, compared to Europe or the United States, let's say. According to government figures, the beginning of December, you have only 60 million who are double vaccinated, 69 million who had their first vaccination.

That barely is 40 percent of the population. The government says the sort of background immunity, if you will, is at about 50 percent. So you can see there's a huge challenge ahead. The loss of life has been significant.

President Putin, you know, offered his condolences and support to those families. But you know, the government has been trying hard to get an uptake of their vaccine. Sputnik V, which the Russian government pretty much rushed to be the first in the world.

But in Russia, the population tends to be, to shy away when the government over self aggrandizes its achievements. And with the vaccine, the pickup is not that high.


ROBERTSON: And some people have been leaving the country for vaccine tourism because Sputnik V is not accepted outside of Russia. So the reality in 2022, the message is there is a long, long way to go for Russia to get to an equal level of footing for vaccinations, compared to so many other developed nations.

NEWTON: And while the security issues are certainly making headlines in the last few days, Nic, this will leave a profound mark on Russia this pandemic. And I'm glad we were able to turn to those concerns. Nic Robertson for us, live from Moscow, appreciate it.

Now there is, of course, growing concern that the Omicron variant could upend the financial outlook for many Americans and others around the world. My conversation with CNN economics commentator, Catherine Rampell, is just ahead.




NEWTON: After another challenging year living through the coronavirus pandemic, people around the world were anxious to try and join in the celebrations, to ring in the new year nonetheless.

Some cities in the United States celebrated as usual, while others opted for more scaled-back festivities. As usual, New York City welcomed the new year with a party in Times Square. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON (voice-over): It looks familiar, right?

But unfortunately, that huge spike in new COVID-19 cases meant it wasn't quite the same. The audience was capped at 15,000 and everyone was fully vaccinated and wearing a mask.




NEWTON: In Pennsylvania, a gorgeous fireworks show was on full display for spectators in Philadelphia. That looks lovely.

And Chicago's Navy pier was ablaze with fireworks, despite a record number of COVID infections there as well.



NEWTON (voice-over): Love those Sydney fireworks. Across the globe, many countries, canceled big events or made due with more subdued plans to bring the new year to the close or the old year I should say.

But that is Sydney, the Australian city carried on with the famous fireworks display. Officials say social distancing would be maintained in all public spaces.

And South Korea brought that farewell to the past year, with a light show and traditional bell ringing, in the capital, Seoul.



NEWTON: I miss that sound, Big Ben. And there was London, celebrated with those midnight chimes from the familiar landmark there. And there's the Shard, skyscraper that put on a light show.

The British capital was among major cities like Atlanta, Athens, Singapore, all canceling celebrations because of the spike in cases.


NEWTON: Limited and scaled back celebrations were, of course, par for the course, as the U.S. shattered daily case records ahead of that new year. As you can see, on this map, notice the colors, not much other than that red, right across the country.

And the U.S. set a record on Friday, with more than 380,000 new cases. That is just the seven-day average. Experts are predicting a tsunami of new infections in the coming weeks. Health officials worry that could lead to a tidal wave of hospitalizations, especially among children.

It is no wonder as COVID among those children is rising rapidly and that means child admissions in hospitals, record highs.

And according to the CDC, hospitalizations among children jumped 66 percent last week from the previous week. Now 2022 is just beginning and, already, there are signs of how COVID in general and Omicron in particular will impact the economy.

You want proof?

Ask friends who had their holiday flights canceled because airlines found themselves short-staffed. Or ask the fan who didn't get to see his or her favorite professional sports team play after an outbreak led to yet another postponed game.

Or talk to that beleaguered restaurant owner, who was counting on things finally getting back to normal, only to have one of the most contagious viruses ever discovered threaten the whole thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were coming back. But as you know, 22 years strong and we'll be 44 years strong.


NEWTON: For four years. Omicron is not the only threat to the economy. Goldman Sachs, Moody's Analytics and others cited the failure to pass the Build Back Better proposal as another reason to cut their U.S. growth forecast. As it was last year, COVID hangs over everything.


NEWTON: Joining me in New York is CNN economics and political commentator Catherine Rampell, also an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post."

First off, happy new year.


NEWTON: It's 2022. We didn't want it to be under these circumstance, especially the economic ones. You know, Main Street had a hard time recovering throughout 2021, never mind not seeing this Omicron variant, which is really strong, everyone, threw a loop, especially in the most vulnerable industries.

I mean how much do we see the ripple effect of this latest, you know, pandemic adversity hitting in the 2022 year?

RAMPELL: Well, it really depends on what the path of Omicron looks like. If in fact we have this surge of infections that quickly recedes and it's over almost as quickly as it begins -- and there's a little bit of evidence to suggest that that could be the case -- basically what we've seen in South Africa, then we will have one difficult month perhaps, where once again, consumers are skittish about going out and shopping and engaging in travel and other kinds of in-person activities.

Workers might be wary of going to work, people are getting sick, so they can't go to work. And they can't engage in their normal economic lives but, within a few weeks, knock on wood, that might be over.

And that would be certainly the good scenario. The bad scenario, of course, is that this sticks around for a while and that it disrupts again our work lives, our shopping lives and in all sorts of ways that we interact with one another, which, of course, weighs on the economy.


RAMPELL: And not only causes people to pull back on work and perhaps even on spending, I don't know, probably they'll just shift their spending more toward goods and away from services. And that could fuel inflation and that obviously is bad for the economy. But it really depends on what happens with this latest variant.

NEWTON: Do you think that there is more that governments need to do to really help out Main Street around the world?

And you know, you and I both know, we've already used a lot of firepower where that's concerned.

RAMPELL: Yes, it is very hard to say, at this point, what governments could do.

I think the most important thing, of course, is getting more people vaccinated, not just here in the United States, where I live, but obviously in lots of other countries around the world, where people have much less reliable access to shots, to vaccines, because, if, you know, far-flung parts of world are not able to have factories running and have people going to work, that reverberates here and elsewhere and in neighboring countries as well.

So the most important thing, of course, is getting the world vaccinated as quickly as possible. Beyond that, there's this question about how much relief to extend to businesses, as they are enduring this additional transition of a new wave.

And in the United States, for example, I think there's a little bit of exhaustion idea of extending more fiscal relief, in part because some of that may have contributed to inflation and in part because resources are finite.

And in other countries as well, there are the same concerns.

And the question is how do you kind of stanch the bleeding without potentially compounding upon these same effects that we've had basically throughout the same year, the year-plus, with consumers just still having cash dispensed, for example, and nothing to spend it on?

Or fewer things to spend it on and that eventually helps to put food on the table but distorts other economic factors and leads to more inflation. So it is a tricky question about what is the right set of strictly economic measures and how you gauge that, given that I think there is very little appetite at this point for government imposed shutdowns in much of world.

NEWTON: Yes, it really is tough. I don't have a lot of time left but do you have confidence that on a fiscal level, that the central bankers around the world, pardon me, on a monetary level, that the central bankers around the world have this in hand?

RAMPELL: I sure hope so. Real risk, at this point, of course, is not just that we have this problem of demand outstripping supply, people have money to spend. But the supply chains are snarled and hard to find workers and hard to get goods shipped, et cetera.

But the expectations change and people start to expect more inflation and that is a self-fulfilling prophecy and raise prices and raise wages preemptively and it spins out of control. And the solution is to have the central bank willing to step on the brakes and take the punch bowl away. And they haven't had to do in much the world in a long time.

NEWTON: I encourage everyone to see your latest opinion poll in "The Washington Post," and it doesn't have anything to do with economics but one of your best, the lead-in has a little to do with Cole Porter music. Thank you. Appreciate it.

RAMPELL: Happy new year.

NEWTON: 2021 ends with something that, of course, resembles a time warp for Europe. As we were saying once again, it rings in the new year with soaring COVID cases. Several countries are reporting their highest ever case counts this week.

French president Emmanuel Macron says he hopes 2022 will see the end of the pandemic and urges the 5 million unvaccinated in France to finally get the shots.

And France is making home tests more available, arriving on supermarket shelves earlier this week, just in time as France has reported record high cases this week.

And the officials at the World Health Organization are saying the pandemic could end in 2022 if global vaccinations increase. The director general says it could only happen if we end inequity and vaccinate 70 percent of people in all countries by the middle of this year.

A fast-moving wildfire hits near Boulder, Colorado, fueled by hurricane force winds and as survivors come to grip with the devastation, the governor says one good thing happened and it's important. We'll explain.




NEWTON: Winds of more than 100 miles an hour are fueling a massive wildfire near Boulder, Colorado. The Marshall fire struck Thursday, forcing more than 35,000 people to flee their homes. But luckily, not a single life was lost.

The governor said that could be the state's own New Year's miracle. The flames wiped out entire subdivisions, destroying at least 500 homes. The fires came in a blink of an eye, literally leaving some families only minutes to get out of the way. The fires subsided after snowy weather moved in Friday.



NEWTON: And we go now to Betty White who wasn't just a Golden Girl, she was a pal and a confidante. Ahead, we say goodbye to the sitcom star and thank her for being a friend.




NEWTON: The beloved actress Betty White has died at 99 years old. Now the self-described "lucky old broad" starred in the sitcoms "The Golden Girls" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in a career that spent decades. And celebrities have been remembering her and so did the president and first lady.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's a shame. She was a lovely lady.


We're so sad about her death.



NEWTON: Now the much younger actor Ryan Reynolds loved to joke that White was his ex-girlfriend.

"The world looks different now," he tweeted. "She was great at defying expectations, she managed to grow very old and somehow not old enough. We'll miss you, Betty."

Now you know, "Happy Days" star Henry Winkler told CNN, about Betty White's racy sense of humor.


HENRY WINKLER, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR: I would have to say authenticity, because she was always who she was. You know, on screen, offscreen, she was bluer than blue. And also will. If you want to be in the world and a contributor, then you can, as long as your body allows you and your mind allows you.

And in her case, both of them did. She was -- she loved what she did. And she loved what she did and just was not going to give up until she had to.


NEWTON: Betty White would have celebrated her 100th birthday January 17th.

I'm Paula Newton. I want to thank you for your company. For the international viewers, "DEFINING MOMENTS," is next. And if you're in the United States and Canada, "NEW DAY" takes you to the top of the hour.

Happy new year, everyone.