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More Snow for Western New York; Controversial World Cup to Kick Off in Qatar; Biden's Student Debt Relief Program in Legal Limbo; U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Pays Surprise Visit to Ukraine; Ukrainian Family Seeks to Adopt Boy Orphaned by War; Celebs Impacted by FTX Collapse. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired November 20, 2022 - 04:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from the United States and all around the world, I'm Laila Harrak.

Ahead this hour, a historic snowstorm in Western New York is closing roads and stranding air passengers, just days before Thanksgiving. We're live in the CNN Weather Center with details.

Plus, it's the first day of matches at the World Cup. The excitement is being overshadowed by an explosive tirade by FIFA's president.

And letters are being sent out to those approved for U.S. student debt relief. But there is a major catch for anyone counting on getting that help soon. We will tell you why.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Laila Harrak.

HARRAK: People in Western New York will be digging out from under even more snow at first light as another round of heavy snowfall is expected to hit the Buffalo area overnight. And that's on top of the huge storm that came through the region in the past few days.

The governor of New York has doubled the number of National Guard members to check on people and to help with snow removal. Nearly 9 million people are under winter alert through Sunday for New York and other states along the Great Lakes, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The snowstorm stranded drivers who didn't follow warnings to stay off the roads. About 240 people had to be rescued, prompting officials to ask residents to just stay home.


DAN NEAVERTH, COMMISSIONER, ERIE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY EMERGENCY SERVICES: Make sure that you're not the reason why ambulances or fire apparatus or the plows can't get through. Stay off the roads. It's Saturday. There's absolutely no reason to be out there today.

The only people that need to be out there are public safety individuals. So, stay off the roads.

If you're going to be outside and you're going to be shoveling, if you're going to be doing some type of strenuous activity out there because of this heavy snow. Please know your limitations. Better yet, know your neighbors and those that can help you or just wait it out.








HARRAK: Millions of followers of Donald Trump are waiting right now to see if the former president is returning to Twitter. They signed in droves to follow his account after the platform's new owner, Elon Musk, restored his access.

On Saturday Mr. Musk wrote, the people have spoken, Trump will be reinstated.

This comes after a poll showed a majority favored reinstatement. Mr. Trump doesn't plan to return but will continue to use his Truth Social platform.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump made his first major appearance before Republicans since announcing his third presidential candidacy, appearing virtually before the Republican Jewish coalition in Las Vegas. The former president received a standing ovation.

But Mr. Trump's quest for the nomination faces serious headwinds, not least of which is the special counsel, who has taken over two key investigations. CNN legal analyst Elie Honig explains how investigators have no time to lose.


ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We're already nearly two years out from the January 6th attack. Donald Trump, to his own advantage, to his own tactical advantage, has now declared his candidacy. It doesn't mean it's going to be harder to charge him, but it certainly is going to be harder to convict him. And I think both the attorney general and Jack Smith, newly appointed special counsel, have shown they understand that. Both of them went out of their way -- in their fairly limited public statements -- to say this will be handled expeditiously, this will not sidetrack this or slow this down. And I think they really need to follow up on that.


HARRAK: CNN legal analyst Elie Honig speaking to us earlier.

Millions of Americans have been approved to have some of their student loans forgiven.


HARRAK: But the government cannot pay off those debts while the program is being challenged in the courts. CNN's Arlette Saenz has more.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration started sending emails to those individuals whose student debt relief applications have been approved but it comes with a major caveat as that program remains on hold due to court rulings.

About 26 million people applied for the student debt relief and 16 million of those applications had been approved. The Department of Education started sending out those emails on Saturday in which they noted that they can't discharge that debt due to those court rulings.

One of the emails read in part, "Lawsuits are preventing the U.S. Department of Education from implementing its one-time student loan debt relief program. We are holding your approved application."

The Education Department says that they will hold onto that information and hope that ultimately they will be able to move forward with this program. But the plan has been on hold for weeks as courts have ruled blocking the plan from being implemented nationwide.

The Biden administration has gone to the Supreme Court and asked them to allow their plan to move forward. But this is something that is really leaving millions of borrowers in limbo as they're waiting to see whether they ultimately will receive this relief.

Now payments on federal student loans have been on pause for over two years now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that freeze is set to end at the end of the year. And the White House is now facing questions about whether they might extend that moratorium on student loan payments.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying that they are considering all options at the moment -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRAK: Ahead on CNN, bold action on the climate crisis. We will

explain how delegates at the COP27 summit reached a landmark deal, benefiting poorer countries vulnerable to global warming.

And later, the story of a little boy who became an orphan during the war in Ukraine and a dream come true for a childless couple. Stay with us.






SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I'm calling on us all to rise to the expectations entrusted to us by the global community and especially by those who are most vulnerable and yet have contributed the least to climate change. I hear no objections. It's so decided.


HARRAK: And that was the moment the U.N.'s climate change conference in Egypt agreed to create a, quote, "loss and damage fund" to help vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters. It's been hailed as a landmark deal.

But much remains undone, including details of where the money will come from. And many leaders are voicing frustration that COP27 was another missed opportunity to take real action against the climate crisis. For more on this, let's bring in CNN's David McKenzie in Johannesburg.

David, I don't want to take away from this landmark deal but major hurdles remain.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Major hurdles remain and that means major problems are going to be faced by the planet in the coming years and decades.

It is sometimes easy to forget just what is at stake here. And what's at stake is really the way we live in the coming years and the temperatures we will have to deal with.

As it stands, even with the decision to start a loss and damage fund, the details will be ironed out later, that is a victory for vulnerable countries. But as it stands the impact of a lack of cutting emissions substantially will be devastating. And you did get a sense of frustration from some of the leaders in that summit.


FRANS TIMMERMANS, EUROPEAN COMMISSION CLIMATE POLICY CHIEF: But I urge you to acknowledge when you walk out of this room that we have all fallen short in actions to avoid and minimize loss and damage. We should have done much more.

Our citizens expect us to lead. That means far more rapidly reduce emissions. That's how you limit climate change.


MCKENZIE: Two things will be disappointing to climate activists and many leaders. One is that there wasn't a specific mention of transitioning away from fossil fuels, including, of course, oil and gas. That will be seen politically possibly as a win for oil-rich nations.

And the other is certainly that there is no direct, aggressive improvement in terms of cutting emissions to avoid the worst ravages of climate change. Right now as it stands, with the way that countries have pledged to reduce their emissions, we are looking at more than 2 degree warming in the coming years and decades.

There has to be a 45 percent increase in those measures to get anywhere close to that 1.5 degree warming agreement from the Paris meetings. So that means we are very much falling short, as the head of the E.U. climate's negotiating team said there.

And where those come from is unclear at this point. It's sort of kicking the can down the record toward next COP meetings, which will be held in the UAE.

HARRAK: David McKenzie, thank you so much.

Some Ukrainians who stayed at home during Russia's occupation could end up leaving after liberation. The reason for that has a lot to do with the damage the Russians left behind. That's ahead.





HARRAK: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Laila Harrak and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ukraine says it's begun voluntary evacuations from newly liberated areas in the south. Water, heat and electricity are in such short supply, residents will have a hard time surviving the winter.

So the government wants to give them a temporary place to stay in other parts of the country. The whole nation is dealing with power shortages after Russian strikes earlier this week. But president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says officials are working to bring the power back.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): As always, today I received reports on the repair works in the energy sector. We're working throughout the country to stabilize the situation. Kyiv and its regions, Odessa and its regions, Kharkiv and its region have the most problems with electricity.


HARRAK: Meanwhile, we're receiving reports of new attacks around the Ukrainian city of Nikopol. That's located just across the river from the occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant. Officials say at least 40 shells hit the area overnight.

The U.K. is vowing to help boost Ukraine's air defenses. The move was announced during Saturday's surprise visit to Kyiv by prime minister Rishi Sunak. During his visit, Mr. Sunak joined President Zelenskyy in a flower laying ceremony, honoring victims of war.

For more developments on Ukraine, Scott McLean joins us from London.

U.K. prime minister Rishi Sunak on an unannounced visit to Ukraine and he didn't come empty handed.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He sure did not. This support package he announced during his visit is $60 million. We're talking about 125 anti-aircraft guns, radar systems and other technology to better help the Ukrainians identify.


MCLEAN: And also shoot down incoming Russian missiles, incoming Russian aircraft over their country. And this is something that the Ukrainians have been asking for since the outset of the wars, more international help to help beef up their air defense systems.

And it has become especially important, given the latest barrage of attacks and now the rolling blackouts that the Ukrainians are dealing with as a result of these attacks on their key infrastructure.

And this visit was probably a sigh of relief for the Ukrainians, frankly as well, given the political turmoil in the U.K. and given the fact that, look, Ukraine has become accustomed to the U.K. being one of its biggest supporters, second financially only to the United States.

And really the architect of all of this was Boris Johnson. And just to give you an idea of just how beloved Boris Johnson was in Ukraine, I remember when I was there in July, I walked past an art gallery in the central part of Kyiv.

And there in the front window were two painted portraits of Boris Johnson, adorned with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. It wasn't Joe Biden, it wasn't President Zelenskyy, it was Boris Johnson.

And so the Ukrainians likely relieved that Rishi Sunak seems to be indicating that he is there to support Ukraine as well, especially given the fact that, just a few days ago, his government announced a series of tax hikes, a series of spending cuts to try to fill a hole of some $65 billion in the U.K.'s public finances.

But this was the message that Rishi Sunak was bringing to Kyiv, listen.


RISHI SUNAK, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: And I'm here today to say that the United Kingdom will continue to stand with you. We will stand with you until Ukraine has won the peace and security it needs and deserves. And then we will stand with you as you rebuild your great country.


MCLEAN: So when Rishi Sunak left Kyiv, he hugged Zelenskyy. And you could actually hear on the pool camera him say that he would follow up with him with a phone call about some of the things that they discussed.

Zelenskyy also said in his nightly address that he and Sunak had agreed on some necessary decisions, though neither man said precisely what those decisions were.

HARRAK: Scott McLean reporting. Thank you so much.

Russia's war has left many children orphaned. But some Ukrainian families are stepping up to adopt the youngest victims. Salma Abdelaziz reports on a 6-year old and the couple giving him a new home.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like any 6-year-old child, Ilya's energy is endless. He wants constant attention and entertainment and craves affection from the two people who care for him most. "Now we have that love," they tell me. "That love that makes you a

family. We did not have this baby but our love is real."

Maria and Vladimir are Ilya's legal guardians. They've been a little family for more than six months. And the couple plans to formally adopt him and become parents to a child orphaned by this war.

The pair was forced to flee their home in the East for Kyiv because of shelling but refused to give up on their dream of starting a family.

ABDELAZIZ: This was such a difficult decision, to adopt during a war. Did you hesitate?

Did you think maybe this is not the right time?

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): "We have been planning to adopt for many years," he says. "The war pushed us to make it happen sooner. Now we wonder, why did we ever wait?"

Ilya's mom was killed in Mariupol, his birthplace. She left home to find food and was struck down by shelling in the first week of war.

Unaware of his wife's fate, Ilya's father went looking for her the next day, only to lose his life, too.

Ilya was left with neighbors, where he sheltered with strangers for weeks in a cold, dark basement. When they ran out of food, Ilya says he started to eat his toys.

The newfound parents are trying to give Ilya a sense of security. But when we visit their home in Kyiv, we see why that's a challenge. Blackouts caused by Russia's strikes on the power grid leave the family without electricity for hours.

"Sometimes he gets scared," she says. "He's hysterical and he'll tell me it's like being back in Mariupol, in the basement, in the darkness."

During the outages, the young family tries to make things normal, playing games, watching movies, anything to ease Ilya's worried mind.

ABDELAZIZ: Do you get afraid in the dark, Ilya?

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): "Not anymore," he says. "I know the lights will come back on. And they do."

During our interview, electricity is restored and Ilya runs to switch on the light, ready to play again.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But first, he wants to put on his Spider-Man costume. He says it makes him feel strong and brave -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Kyiv.


HARRAK: Russia is accusing Ukraine of war crimes. Moscow says video circulated online show Russian soldiers killed after surrendering to Ukrainian forces. CNN has geolocated the videos to the outskirts of Makiyivka, a recently liberated village in the eastern Luhansk region.

The edited video purports to show a couple of Russian soldiers lying face down on the ground with their hands over their heads. More soldiers are seen emerging from a building and lying down next to the other troops in the yard.

A man can be heard shouting, "Come on out, one by one.

"Which of you is the officer?

"Has everyone come out?

"Come out." A short exchange of gunfire is heard before the video cuts off. A

second clip shot from a drone appears to show the same men dead on the ground, surrounded by pools of blood.

We are unable to verify what exactly happened in the first clip or what happened between the clips. But we know from Reuters that the U.N. human rights office is aware of the video and is investigating.

In the meantime, CNN has reached out to Ukraine's general staff for comments twice but hasn't received a response yet. Russia's ministry of defense says the video shows, quote, "a deliberate and methodological killing of more than 10 immobilized Russia servicemen."

Executing prisoners of war is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Ukraine has also accused Russia of multiple war crimes since the invasion began.

Now days after the fatal stabbing of four students, police in Idaho are still searching for a suspect. Ahead, the latest on their growing investigation.





HARRAK: Authorities in Idaho are still working to find a suspect in the killing of four university students. Investigators have again searched the house where the victims were found stabbed to death last week.

They're hoping to figure out how the attack unfolded, how many people may have been involved and how an attacker could have entered in the first place. CNN's Camila Bernal has more from Idaho.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seen a lot of activity here at the crime scene, local authorities going inside of the house and police officers outside of the House, even looking and measuring at some tire marks near the driveway of the house.

We know that, in addition to the work that's being done here, they've already interviewed at least 38 people. They're going through hundreds and hundreds of tips that are coming in.

But there is still a lot of fear in this community and frankly confusion, because initially police officers had said there was no threat to the community. And then they changed everything and said, look, you have to be vigilant because there has not been an arrest in this case.

The one thing, though, that they continue to say is that they believe this was a targeted attack, although they have not given a reason as to why they believe this was a targeted attack.

According to the latest information that we have, we know that all four of them were believed to be sleeping at the time of the attack. They were stabbed multiple times and we know that at least some of them had defensive wounds.

So they might have been able to fight back. The father of one of the victims, the father of Xana Kernodle, saying he believes his daughter fought back.


JEFFREY KERNODLE, XANA'S FATHER: I heard from her before we went out. I think midnight is the last time I heard from her and she was fine. They were just hanging out at home.


BERNAL: We also know they went through different Dumpsters in this area, trying to look for evidence and then they released a timeline, hoping to get more information, more tips based on where these students were last Saturday night.

We know two of these students, they were at a fraternity party between 8:00 and 9:00 pm. The other two, they were at a local sports bar between 10:00 and 1:30 in the morning and then they went to a food truck. That was around 1:40 in the morning.

But authorities say they believe all four of them were back here at the house at around 2:00 in the morning. They say the attack likely happened in the early morning hours but that 9-1-1 call did not come in until about noon on Sunday.

Now we also know that the two other roommates that were also here on the night of the attack, authorities say they don't believe they are suspects in this case. But clearly still a lot of work to be done by investigators and a lot of questions to be answered, all as the friends and family mourn the loss of these four students -- Camila Bernal, CNN, Moscow, Idaho.


HARRAK: Police have arrested two suspects making online threats against a synagogue in New York City.


HARRAK (voice-over): This is one of the two who were detained at Penn Station. Police says the suspect had an illegal semiautomatic gun, a large knife and a Nazi armband. They're now facing charges of making terrorist threats and illegal weapon possession.

The threats started appearing on Twitter, suggesting an attack on one of the synagogues in the city. Law enforcement sources says the posts were later traced to a work computer used by one of the suspects.


HARRAK: Some A-list celebrities just got an expensive lesson. Ahead, how the collapse of a cryptocurrency exchange affected them.





HARRAK: From Matt Damon to Kim Kardashian and Tom Brady, several big celebrities are facing the fallout of the sudden collapse of crypto exchange FTX after the $32 billion company plunged into bankruptcy in less than a week. CNN's Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The implosion of the Crypto currency exchange FTX, one of the most powerful figures in the industry has left investors grappling with the aftershocks.

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED, FOUNDER AND FORMER CEO, FTX: How much of this is effectively an empty product?

ROMANS (voice-over): FTX's CEO Sam Bankman-Fried is facing multiple investigations after reports that he mishandled billions of in customer funds, causing the 30 year old to see his own $16 billion fortune erased overnight. Now the stunning collapse is reverberating across the trillion dollar industry.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Kim Kardashian and Matt Damon are among the celebrities who have endorsed the crypto craze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But four simple words that have been whispered by the intrepid since the time of the Romans: Fortune favors the brave.

ROMANS (voice-over): So does fortune favor the brave for those that invested $1,000 in Bitcoin when actor Matt Damon started touting it just over a year ago?

That investment is now worth around $300, dropping almost 70 percent.

Bloomberg reporting that billionaire Mark Cuban's investment in the titan token tumbled 99 percent this August. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady bought an equity stake in the now failed FTX.


ROMANS (voice-over): Along with Brady, tennis grand slam champion Naomi Osaka, basketball star Steph Curry and Baseball Hall of Famer David Ortiz among top athletes who will reportedly lose millions with the collapse of FTX.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down, you're getting into crypto, the FTX.

ROMANS (voice-over): But no franchise took a bigger hit than the Miami Heat basketball team, who terminated their 19 year $135 million naming rights deal with "Financial Times, leaving them scrambling for a new sponsorship partner one month into the season.


HARRAK: CNN's Christine Romans reporting there.

Wedding bells at the White House on Saturday as President Joe Biden's eldest granddaughter, Naomi Biden, married her fiance, Peter Neal, on the South Lawn. It's the 19th wedding to ever take place at the White House.

More than 300 guests danced and ate dessert at the reception, receiving slices of the wedding cake and followed as in past White House receptions.

And President Biden turns 80 today. The White House says he will celebrate with a brunch hosted by first lady Jill Biden. Family members already in town for that wedding are staying on for the celebration. It's the first time ever that a U.S. president has turned 80 while in office.

That wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Laila Harrak, thanks for joining us. I will be back with more of today's top stories after a quick break.