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California Faces Deadly Storms and Dangerous Floods; Anticipated Strong Storms in Southeastern and Central U.S.; Upper Plains and Midwest Forecasted Heavy Snow; Disappearance of Three Women from Texas Missing After Crossing the Mexico Border; Mexican Kidnapping Victim Expresses Gratitude for Being Back Home; Immigration Policies by Biden Resembles Trump Administration; Use of "CBP One" App Presents Challenges for Migrants Seeking Asylum; Russia's War on Ukraine; Wagner Boss Claims Progress in Bakhmut; Wives and Mothers Makes an Appeal to President Putin; Secret Talks that Ended Mariupol Siege; Mass Israeli Protests; French Government Pushing Ahead with Plans to Reform Its Pension System; BBC's Director General Will Not Resign in Light of Lineker's Dismissal; Interview with Protest Organizer Shikma Bressler; Hollywood's 95the Academy Awards; Interview with The Hollywood Reporter Senior Diversity and Inclusion Editor Rebecca Sun; Most Asian Nominees for Oscars in a Single Year are in 2023; Best World Cup Skier in History is Now Mikaeli Shiffrin. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 12, 2023 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada, and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on "CNN Newsroom".

50 million people are under flood alerts as yet another storm heads for Central California. We'll take you to Monterey County for the latest.

Plus, hundreds of thousands take to the streets in Israel to protest the prime minister's plan to overhaul the court system, a move many see as stepping away from democracy. A protester organize joins me later this hour.

And history could be made tonight at the Oscars. We'll take a closer look at who is likely to go home with a Golden statue.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN center, this is "CNN Newsroom with Kim Brunhuber".

BRUNHUBER: At the moment, California is getting a brief rest pit from recent storms and flooding but not for long. More rain is expected later today, and the next big storm system is forecast to arrive late Monday and last through at least Wednesday. Now, officials in Monterey County says the flooding will have a devastating impact on the community.


LUIS ALEJO, CHAIR, MONTEREY COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: Today is a worst-case scenario for this community at Pajaro. A community that is heavily Latino, low-income families, farm workers. We work so hard to try prioritize this community and avoid flooding. The last time we had a major flooding was 28 years ago in this community. And we know that these are the folks who can't least afford this type of hardship.


BRUNHUBER: Now, we know that the Pajaro River levee was breached, flooding the town of Pajaro. And more than 90 people were rescued by emergency crews. 15 million people in California and Nevada are under flood alerts right now. And some of those flood watches have now been extended through Wednesday. At least two people were killed during the storms. Pajaro residents who were forced to evacuate say they are not sure what to do next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They started evacuating at -- I think at 12:00 in the morning or 01:11 in the morning. And they just started -- National Guards are just started taking people out as they go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is fear of where do we go with the kids, because we do not have anywhere to go. We came to check our home but they won't let us in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We already packed everything we are going to take and we're ready to go. We wanted to go to a hotel, but at the moment, we don't even had work so it's hard to decide what to do.


BRUNHUBER: The 11th atmospheric river event of the season is expected to hit California beginning late Monday night. Now, Saturday's levee breach in Monterey County has been described as a worst-case scenario by local officials, and residents are not out of the woods yet. CNN's Mike Valerio is there.


MIKE VALERIO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is still the center of the flood response and rescue efforts here in the town center of Pajaro. Now, about five kilometers away, we have a levee that was breached several hours ago and that is why we have all of this water being dumped into the center of this small town in Monterey County in the central coast of California.

Now, after the dawn hours on Saturday, we saw National Guard vehicles go up and down this main drag of Pajaro. Rescuing families, couples, dogs even, making sure that everybody was OK. And we had the opportunity to interview a spokesperson from Cal Fire, one of the agencies responding to this effort. Take a listen on when he told us they realized the levee had a breach and how many rescue operations they've accomplished in the early hours so far.

CAPT. CURTIS RHODES, CAL FIRE: We were notified of the levee breach at midnight last night. So, we deployed down here, 3:00 a.m. this morning. We did have the high-water team with us, that's part of the emergency operation center. They have been countywide this week. They have their high-water vehicles and have been successful in nine high- water rescue situations this morning.

VALERIO: So, the deepest water that we have behind us is about one meter deep. But the concern here is that, of course, we have a, kind of, a quiescent moment with the sun shining at this hour but we have yet another atmospheric river system taking aim at California, Tuesday, into Wednesday. The 11th storm system of the season. The serious concern is that without the levy fixed by Tuesday and Wednesday, we could have more water here in the center of town. Mike Valerio, CNN, Pajaro, California.


BRUNHUBER: And we're also watching severe weather in other parts of the U.S. Storms are expected from Oklahoma to Mississippi through the overnight hours. And that severe threat moves east through the day.


Meanwhile, heavy snow will make for treacherous travel in the Northern Plains and upper Midwest. North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could get eight to 12 inches of snow throughout the day today.

Officials in Mexico are investigating the disappearance of three women from Texas who went missing after crossing the border two weeks ago. According to police, they were headed to a city about three hours south of the border. The women went missing one week before four Americans were kidnapped in the border City of Matamoros. Two of the Americans were killed and their bodies were turned to the U.S. authorities on Thursday. One of the survivors, Latavia Washington McGee, is now back home in South Carolina telling CNN she is grateful to be back with her family.

We are also getting a look at new video showing the four Americans traveling in Mexico just hours before the attack. CNN's Carlos Suarez reports.


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Facebook live video that CNN was able to obtain captures the group of Americans driving in Mexico before the kidnappings. CNN was able to geolocate the video to a street in the northernmost section of Matamoros, located near an offramp from the bridge the group used to cross into Mexico from Texas. A timeline from Mexican officials indicated that about two hours after the group drove into Mexico, a car began following them.

Now, it's unclear what happened after the group crossed the border. We know that they were supposed to be going to a medical appointment for one of the surviving victims, Latavia Washington McGee. McGee's friend, Cheryl Orange said she made the trip to Texas but she did not cross the border because she did not have the proper identification.

According to Orange, the trip from Brownsville to the clinic was only supposed to take 15 minutes. On Friday Mexican officials announced the arrest of five men. It's unclear if the men are the same group the drug cartel believed to be responsible for the kidnappings, said they were going to hand-over to authorities later in the day, but officials released more information on how they took custody of the men.

In a tweet, Mexican officials said in part, "Due to the conditions in which five men were found in Matamoros along with a car and a letter, they were initially treated as victims of crime but this changed to suspects when they began to report their participation in the events of March 3rd."

Here in South Carolina with the four victims lived, McGee told us that she is happy to be back home, she is with her family and that she is doing OK. The other survivor, Eric Williams, he was shot several times and is recovering in a hospital. The bodies of Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown had been turned over to authorities. And the Woodard family tells us that they hope to bring his body back to South Carolina on Wednesday. Carlos Suarez, CNN, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.


BRUNHUBER: The attack in Mexico is also shining a spotlight on the country's ongoing problems with cartel violence, which the government has long struggled to control. According to a national database, more than 112,000 Mexicans remain missing nationwide, and experts say, the actual number is likely higher.

The White House is facing renewed criticism for its handling of migrants at the U.S. southern border with critics arguing that the Biden administration's immigration policies look and feel just like the ones under Donald Trump. CNN's Rosa Flores takes a closer look at how this is playing out at one small school.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): In a deep canyon in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of San Diego, the dreams of children like Arthur Salazar, a nine-year-old from Guatemala.

FLORES (on camera): What is your biggest, biggest dream? To arrive to the U.S.?

FLORES (voiceover): And the flaws of the broken U.S. immigration system come into focus.

FLORES (on camera): I see little hands and bigger hands.

LINDSAY WISER (PH), OPENED SCHOOL FOR MIGRANT CHILDREN: Yes. Yes, so we serve preschool age and elementary age children.

FLORES (voiceover): Lindsay Wiser (ph) opened this school for migrant children three years ago and says, the current policies have migrants waiting in Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S.

WISER (PH): My biggest concern is the toll that these policies are going to take on children.

FLORES (on camera): Do you like science?


FLORES (voiceover): Arthur arrived in December and says the wait is depressing and sad.

FLORES (on camera): Why is it sad?

He says that, it's sad because sometimes they don't have food to eat.

FLORES (voiceover): His mom, Jennifer, opened this food stand in front of the school.

FLORES (on camera): What are you waiting for?

She says that the migrants here are stuck because of the CBP One App.

FLORES (voiceover): The new app, launched by the Biden administration, lets asylum-seekers set up appointments so they can enter the U.S. legally under an exception to Title 42, the pandemic rule used to return migrants to Mexico. But getting an appointment is a big challenge.



FLORES (voiceover): The head of Tijuana's migrant services says, about 5,600 migrants live in shelters, and the one port of entry nearby, only takes 200 appointments per day.

LUCERO: It's not enough.

FLORES (voiceover): Lucero says, not one person has gotten an appointment in the largest shelter in town where Jennifer wakes up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to try the app.

FLORES (on camera): So, its error after error after error?

FLORES (voiceover): She took screen grabs, one is a will of death, the app asks for a selfie but does not capture her face.

FLORES (on camera): This is another one, it says that she must be close to the border. You're in Tijuana and this is a border town.

FLORES (voiceover): Then-candidate Joe Biden said this during the final presidential debate in 2020.

JOE BIDEN, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the first president in history of United States of America that's anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country. That's never happened before in America. They're sitting in squaller on the other side of the river.

FLORES (voiceover): The scene President Biden described then appears to be happening under his administration, too. But light shines even in the deepest canyons. Remember the handprints?

WISER (PH): This is a migrant child who was here learning and they're most likely in the U.S. now.

FLORES (voiceover): Their hope that dreams come true.

FLORES (on camera): The White House pushes back on comparisons of current border policy to those from the Trump era saying that the Biden administration has actually expanded legal pathways to come into the country. About the app, CBP says that it's working as intended and that the criticism that it doesn't recognize darker faces is unfounded.

CBP spokesperson telling me that CBP has processed 40,000 appointments from over 85 countries since January. The top three are Haitian, Venezuelan and Russian. The issue with facial detection is how the photos are being taken, not on ethnicity, meaning that it could be bad lighting or the framing of the photo. And about that huge demand, that means that these appointments are being taken in a matter of minutes. Rosa Flores, CNN, Los Angeles.


BRUNHUBER: Russian forces fall into a trap set by Ukrainian snipers. Still ahead, how Ukraine says, it lured the invaders into making a deadly mistake.

Plus, protests are not stopping the French Senate as it adopts legislation on pension reform. We'll have details coming up, stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: All right. I want to show you a video now that Ukraine says, shows close combat for control of Bakhmut. Have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).


BRUNHUBER: Ukraine says, Russian troops walked into an ambush by Ukrainian snipers in the city's industrial zone. Six Russian troops were reportedly killed. The footage posted by Ukraine's border guard does not show people but you could hear the gunshots. Now, CNN couldn't geolocate the video but nothing in it suggests it's not from Bakhmut. Meanwhile, the leader of Russia's Wagner mercenaries is claiming more progress in the fight for the city. While the wives and mothers of Russian conscripts have a personal appeal to President Vladimir Putin. For more, Scott McLean joins us from London.

So, Scott, first, what's the latest in the battle for Bakhmut?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, look, as we've been hearing for weeks, the Ukrainians say that the Russian pressure on the city is relentless, the attacks are relentless. In fact, the Ukraine said yesterday that the -- there are combat engagements, in their words, happening almost every single hour of the day.

So, the fighting there is extremely fierce. The advantage that the Ukrainians have is that, look, they have held this city, this town for months and months successfully. And so, it is extremely well fortified, they call it a fortress. But beyond that, it is really like any other town or city in Eastern Ukraine. It does not hold any kind of outsized importance or strategic value.

What it has taken on is a lot of symbolic value, which a Ukrainian commander in the eastern part of the country says, only grows every single day. Because the Ukrainians say that, look, if the Russians are to take this town, not only would it be, obviously, a symbolic blow for the Ukrainians but also, they believe that it would make it easier for them to launch more large-scale attacks further inside of the country.

We also saw a new video from the head of the Wagner private military contractor purporting to show the Russians continuing to make slow but steady progress and actually moving toward the city's center. Yevgeny Prigozhin claims in this video that he's only 1.2 kilometers from the town administration building, which you can see in the video, it has smoke coming from it.

He is calling on other Russian fighters to cover their flanks because he says that if they don't then the Ukrainians will launch a counterattack and surround the Wagner troops or during the bulk of the fighting there. Just as the Ukrainians right now, he claims, are surrounded in that city center. He also, in a separate video talked about the motivations of his Russian fighters. Listen.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, HEAD OF WAGNER MERCENARY GROUP (through translator): What is our goal? Why are we fighting? The goal is simple, to not disgrace Russian weapons, to not disgrace Russia. Not to bring Russia to the point where it, itself, collapses. Most likely this is the goal of the American, British intelligence services which work for the long haul and work to destroy Russia. In which the ruler must continue losing ratings, the army must become weaker and weaker until the Russians say, what the -- is our self-consciousness?


MCLEAN: Kim, I also want to mention one other video released, which is quite remarkable, especially to be released inside of Russia in this day and age, but it shows a group of Russian women, mothers, and wives calling on the President Putin to stop sending their husbands and sons to the slaughter, in their words. They say that these men were recruited, they were mobilized in September, but in March they joined assault groups and were sent to the front lines with only four days of training.


One woman says that her husband joined a group of five, only five, Russian fighters who were made to storm a heavily fortified Ukrainian areas where -- area where she says, there were some 100 Ukrainian -- well-armed Ukrainian troops. So, these women say that -- look, their husbands, their sons, they are willing to fight for Russia but they are not willing to be ill-equipped stormtroopers. Kim

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. All right. Thanks so much, Scott McLean in London. Appreciate it.

Well, CNN is learning more about what went on behind the scenes when that long siege in the City of Mariupol was ended last May. Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were holed up there in the Azovstal Steel Plant for months. Alex Marquardt has this exclusive report on how they were finally able to emerge from the plant.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): For three months last year, Russian forces laid siege to the Azovstal Steel Plant. More than 2,000 Ukrainians, both soldiers and civilians, taking shelter deep underground. In the Port City of Mariupol, it was Ukraine's last stand. After Russian President, Vladimir Putin, spoke on state television, ordering the plant sealed off, "So that not even a fly can escape."

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: (Speaking in a foreign language).

MARQUARDT (voiceover): These new exclusive videos show that some of his top generals were dispatched for intense never before seen negotiations for the release and surrender of those in Azovstal. These clips and photos are from Oleksandr Kovalov, a Ukrainian member of parliament, who had previously served as a Soviet paratrooper. He told us he reached out to old contacts in Russia's security services.

OLEKSANDR KOVALOV, UKRAINIAN MP (through translator): There are people with some degree of sanity who wanted to help. And some wanted blood and continued shelling and bombing with hatred.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): Soon, Kovalov said, two senior Russian military intelligence generals were involved, Alexander Zorin and Vladimir Alexseyev, both are highly decorated. General Zorin was involved in Russia's campaign in Syria, seen here with President Bashar al-Assad. General Alexseyev is the deputy head of Russia's military intelligence sanctioned by the U.S. for cyberattacks, including election interference, and the E.U. and U.K. for the 2018 poisoning in England of a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter.

This clip shows Alexseyev at the steel plant, surrounded by Ukrainian troops from the Azov battalion, which Russia calls Nazis. Zorin, photographed there too.

KOVALOV (through translator): These are the moment that we were worried about. A moment of trust. When we did everything so that the two sides came together, looked into each other's eyes, the Russian side promised that there would be a civilized exit for our soldiers.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): Three times, Kovalov went to Mariupol, which he says was under constant shelling. A senior Ukrainian military intelligence official, Dmitry Usov (ph), joined him and took charge of the talks with the Russian generals.

KOVALOV (through translator): We tried to show the whole world that it is possible to find a compromise, if only for the sake of saving people.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): In early May, the civilians were released, soldiers still under attack. On May 16th, a final deal was struck. Soldiers would leave; Russia would take over Mariupol. The first Ukrainian soldiers emerged on stretchers. Many others carried or limping. They surrendered their weapons. General Zorin, seen here, speaking with the Azov commander.

KOVALOV (through translator): Everyone behaved professionally. There was no provocation from either side.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): Kovalov says he went with the soldiers as they were taken deeper into Russian-occupied Ukraine.

KOVALOV (through translator): We have shown that these communicate bridges work. The main thing is the desire of people to hear each other and go towards each other. Still, not everything is lost in this life, you can still be a human. Even at war.

MARQUARDT (on camera): Kovalov tells us that he continues to try to work on bringing home those remaining fighters who are at Azovstal. He says, there are 2,000 who are still being held in Russia or Russian- held territories. And for his work in Mariupol, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence wrote a commendation letter to Parliament, praising Kovalov for his important and invaluable help in ending the siege at Azovstal. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Lviv.



BRUNHUBER: Israel has seen more mass demonstrations against plans to change the court system. I'll speak to a protest organizer about what comes next ahead. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the U.S., Canada, and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is "CNN Newsroom". After weeks of protests, the French government is pushing ahead with plans to reform the pension system by a vote 195 to 112. The country's Senate has adopted the bill backed by the President Emmanuel Macron. Now, this as demonstrators took to the streets again on Saturday. The bill would gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, and it is still several step away from becoming law. Police say, more than 1.2 million people protested the plan last week and strikes of disrupted power, oil refineries, schools, airports, and trains.

The head of the BBC, Tim Davis, says he has no intention of resigning in the wake of Saturday's collapsed soccer programming and the chaos that followed by abruptly sidelining the presenter Gary Lineker from his regular spot. On Saturday, the BBC unwittingly set off a furious boycott against the company. Nobody would appear on set without Lineker, so the BBC forged ahead with an apology on an empty studio. CNN's Patrick Snell has our report.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: While the BBC's football coverage plunged into chaos after Gary Linker, the former England captain and presenter of the iconic "Match of the Day" show since 1999 was pulled from hosting duties. Now, this is the site that would normally greet the program's millions of viewers, Lineker alongside his pundits themselves, former professional footballers.


But on Saturday night, only a curtail 20-minute version of "Match of the Day" aired. No presenter, no pundits, and even no match commentary. Now, it comes after the BBC announced Lineker, the top goal scorer at the 1986 World Cup would step back from presenting falling a row over impartiality after comments he made on social media, criticizing the U.K. government's controversial new immigration policy.

The 62-year-old tweeting, the proposed new U.K. government asylum seeker policy, "Is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s". The BBC, Britain's public broadcast saying his tweet breached their guidelines, specifically its commitment to what it calls due impartiality. Lineker, himself, attending one of his former teams, Leicester City's game on Saturday after first pundits, then commentators announced their intention to boycott "Match of the Day" in support of him. Fans at King Power Stadium having their say on it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I disagree with the whole banning element. I think it's -- yes, he has a right to reflect what other people are thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support him. I'm glad to see that other players, other pundits have supported him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should be able to say what you wanted to say but, you know, I think you have to take things into context and I think he's really done that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is just expressing an opinion which happens to be -- to log heads (ph) with what the government do or said.

SNELL: Elsewhere, Liverpool head coach, Jurgen Klopp, also weighing in.

JURGEN KLOPP, LIVERPOOL MANAGER: It is a really difficult world to live in anywhere. But when I -- if I understand it right then this is about -- it's a message, an opinion about human rights and that should be possible to say.

SNELL: And the fallout continues this weekend with other football shows on the network and some radio programming as well, also forced off air. The BBC issuing an apology for the scheduled changes. Patrick Snell, CNN, Atlanta.


BRUNHUBER: Plans to overhaul Israel's judicial system are facing more protests. Coming up, why a former Prime Minister reportedly says this is his country's greatest crisis ever. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Mass protests against plans to overhaul the Israeli judicial system have entered their 10th week. Organizers say, half a million people turned out for Saturday's rallies in several cities. Allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on trial for alleged corruption say the reforms are needed to balance the government. But critics say this is a power grab aimed at removing checks and balances.


TAMIR GUYTSABRI, PROTESTER: I am here to demonstrate and to sound my voice against the dictatorship that they established here in the name of the so-called law, judicial reform. It's not a judicial reform. It's a revolution that making Israel go to full dictatorship. And I want Israel to stay a democracy for my kids, for grandson. It will be -- because Israel is democracy country and it must stay as one.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Hadas Gold was at one of the rallies in Jerusalem were organizers are vowing to keep up their protests.


HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: For more than two months now, Israelis in the hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets on a regular basis to protests the Israeli government's planned judicial reforms. That at their most drastic, would allow the Israeli parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority.

We are here in Jerusalem, just outside of the Israeli president's residence. And it's the president, who, just a few days ago, gave an impassioned televised speech. But for the first time, he spoke out against these specific reforms. Saying that they are threat to the democratic foundations of Israel and warning that the country is at a point of no return between the divisiveness that these reforms have caused.

But so far, it does not seem as though the Israeli government is budging despite protests like this tonight where people have been chanting, Israel will not become a dictatorship. Chanting democracy. We've even seen women in handmade costumes, like from the handmade still (ph), making their way through the crowd.

But for the Israeli government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they say that these reforms are sorely needed as a way to rebalance the branches of government. And in their minds, they can do so because they won a majority of seats in parliament in last November's elections. They have 64 seats out of 120-seat parliament. They don't need any votes from the opposition to push this through.

And this coming week, they plan a major legislative blitz that would help push these reforms even closer to becoming final. But the protest organizers say that they continue to protest. They plan even further protests this week. Last week, they managed to slow down operations at the airport and shut down highways. This week, they plan more. And they plan to take their protests abroad. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flying to Berlin for an official visit, organizers saying that they will meet him there to protest in front of his meetings. Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


BRUNHUBER: And for more on this, I'm joined Shikma Bressler, an Israel physicist and protest organizer. Thanks so much for being here with us, So, just to explain from your point of view, what is at stake here?

SHIKMA BRESSLER, PROTEST ORGANIZER: I think that we have staked all of the morals and all the, you know, basic principles based on which this country -- our beloved country was established. It's not just about making this place a dictatorship, but it really destroying every aspect of ideals like equality, like -- you know, the very basic things based on which any person who were raised upon the history of our, you know, nature was -- you know, cannot stand, basically.

BRUNHUBER: As we heard there in that report, supporters of the plan say, the Supreme Court has become too powerful and not democratically accountable. Are you open to a compromise on reform?

BRESSLER: Yes, sure. We have to realize that what is on stake is not an idea to make a reform, which I perfectly support. But it's really in -- is a revolution. I mean, if the law that are being suggested will pass, Israel will no longer be a democracy in the sense that it will take us above or beyond the point of no return because we will not be able to elect again freely anything here.


BRESSLER: So, I am and we are open for reform. Every system needs to be reformed these days.


But what is on stake is not a reform, but really a revolution that will put -- it will destroy completely any idea of balances between the authorities and give full control, full power to the government.

BRUNHUBER: What strikes me when you hear from some of the protesters is the diversity there. Some who even, you know, broadly consider themselves as right-wing and supporters of Netanyahu are joining these protests. But will this coalition hold over time, do you think?

BRESSLER: The coalition of the protesters, you mean?

BRUNHUBER: Yes, exactly.

BRESSLER: I think so. You see it growing by the day. We have protesters from literally all over the country, from north to south, from east to west. All different parties. All ideas. It's not about, you know, our -- let's say, usual conflicts of how to handle the country and what should be the ideology based on which we will move forward. But it really is about the rules of the game, right?

How we want to take the decision? How we want to manage and handle conflicts in here? Whether it's going to be in a democratic way with equality embedded in or whether it's going to be just based on the decision of some majority. It could be very minor majority, but still majority. And the -- and this is what it is all about. And therefore, I think that this coalition of protesters will hold because people understand that we are touching the -- really, the rules of the game. The core principles based on which we want to be able to make decisions and discussions in our country from this day for our the -- you know, for our kids, for our future.

BRUNHUBER: The protests, so far, have been largely peaceful but the rhetoric and the anger seemed to be intensifying. Is there a fear that this could lead to more direct confrontation and violence?

BRESSLER: Well, I don't think that there is a fear for violence. We have never been violent, but it should be clear that we are perfectly aware that the scientific research about protests distinguishes between three different types of protests. And then one which is the most effective is the one which is, like, impolite but nonviolent. And this is our direction. We done being polite. Done, you know, foiling (ph) every, let's say, every rule quietly. Politeness is out, but no violent, whatsoever.

BRUNHUBER: All right. So, you're done being polite but the standoff continues. So, what happens next?

BRESSLER: Think about what we are willing to show and protest here that we understand that we -- each one of us will have to pay a price to make this protest effective in the sense that we are willing to go in our daily and regular life. We are willing to put aside the other things that we like to do, our day job and so on. And to go out to the streets and disturb and block and really show that the government has lost its legitimacy in what we are doing.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We'll, we really appreciate having you on to talk about these important protests going on there. Shikma Bressler, thanks so much.

BRESSLER: Thank you very much.

BRUNHUBER: Well, changing gears now, it's Hollywood's biggest night of the year. Just ahead, what to watch for at this year's Academy Awards and who may be going home with an Oscar. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: It is the biggest night of the year in Hollywood, the 95th Academy Awards will take place later today. 10 films are up for best picture. From fan favorites like, "Avatar: The Way of Water" to the German war drama, "All Quiet on the Western Front", there's someone -- something for everyone there. CNN's Stephanie Elam reports with this preview.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, 95TH ACADEMY AWARDS: And when we're done with this, we're going to be carpeting all of Hollywood.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The Oscars are back, the first since the slap made Hollywood's biggest night, the Academy's biggest nightmare.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: It still hurts.

ELAM (voiceover): Just a week after Chris Rock took aim at Will Smith --

KIMMEL: The second I saw Will Smith get up out of his seat, I would have been halfway to the Wetzel's Pretzels.

ELAM (voiceover): All eyes will be on host Jimmy Kimmel who says he will address the slap.

KIMMEL: You know, comedians are mad about it. It's one of those things that, for a group of people that find everything funny, it's like not funny, you know. But of course, it's -- you know, you have to.

ELAM (voiceover): The fallout also upends Oscar tradition, since Smith won best actor last year.

MATTHEW BELLONI, FOUNDING PARTNER, PUCK AND FORMER EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: They have to find somebody to present best actress, because, typically, the tradition is if you win best actor, you come back and you present best actress. But that's not going to happen because he's banned from the show.

ELAM (voiceover): This year's drama should come from the awards. Possible upsets.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS, SUPPORTING ACTRESS NOMINEE: I have been an actress since I was 19.

ELAM (voiceover): A late SAG Award search from Jamie Lee Curtis could lift her over supporting actress favorite Angela Bassett, neither veteran has ever won.

ELAM (on camera): What does that mean for you?

ANGELA BASSETT, SUPPORTING ACTRESS NOMINEE: You know what, it's just a clear example that you've got to hold on.

BRENDAN FRASER, ACTOR, "THE WHALE": I'm inspiring. I'm breathing.

ELAM (voiceover): Sagging critics' choice winner Brendan Fraser will go down to the wire with Austin Butler for best actor.

AUSTIN BUTLER, ACTOR, "ELVIS": I am ready. Ready to fly.

ELAM (voiceover): The "Elvis" star won a BAFTA, the British Oscar, a bellwether since the Academy has welcomed more international voters.

BAZ LUHRMANN, DIRECTOR, "ELVIS": Denzel Washington said to me, you are about to work with a young actor, because he had just worked with him, whose work ethic is like no other. He was right.


ELAM (voiceover): If there's an Oscar shocker, it could be for best actress where Michelle Yeoh is expected to win for "Everything Everywhere All at Once."


ELAM (voiceover): Cate Blanchett's BAFTA win keeps her competitive. But the outlier, Andrea Riseborough, whose role as an alcoholic in the small film, "To Leslie" led to social media push inside Hollywood that won her a surprise nomination.


She was allowed to remain a contender after an Academy investigation into the tactics of the campaign. A probe that upsets some of Riseborough supporters.

BELLONI: There could be a protest vote that goes on here. And if there is a shocker on Oscar night, it's going to be if she wins.


BRUNHUBER: Joining me now is Rebecca Sun, senior editor of Diversity and Inclusion for the Hollywood Reporter.

Thanks so much for being here with us. So, just, you know, generally speaking, taking a wider view of this year's Oscars, is there a theme? Is there something that makes this year different overall?

REBECCA SUN, SENIOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION EDITOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: I think -- well, this year's team Oscars has a whole new leadership team. We have a new Academy president and new Academy CEO coming in.

And so, I think that especially with so many recent controversies and criticisms about the ceremony, from ratings to onstage fiascoes, they are looking for a return to normalcy. A return to a scandal free Oscars. And I think, really, kind of, looking forward to this new more inclusive, more expansive idea of what types of movies get nominated for the Oscars. You can see that in the breath of diversity among the 10 best picture nominees.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, I guess I wanted to explore that a bit larger because on one hand you have that, on the other hand many people are saying, you know, for example, there are only, what, some six black people nominated for the Oscars. So, how would you gauge the Oscars progress on the diversity front, basically, since they began sort of diversifying membership and since the whole Oscars So White fiasco?

SUN: Yes, absolutely. So, first of all when I talked about the diversity of the best picture nominees, I meant more in terms of genre diversity with, like, small movies, as well as blockbusters, and that sort of thing. But when we are talking about gender, racial, ethnic diversity, certainly, the numbers do not lie and they've improved since, you know, Oscars So White began trending in 2015 and 2016. However, that does not mean there still isn't a significant way to go.

So, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative recently came out with a study and they saw that whereas people of color represented about eight percent of all nominees before Oscars So White, that is more than doubled to 17 percent, but that still means that 83 percent of Oscar nominees are white. So, it's improved but, you know, let's not overstate this sense that the Oscars are now so, you know, "WOKE" now.


SUN: I mean, you know, easily over three quarters of nominees are still white.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, so still obviously a long, long way to go. Could be a banner year for people of Asian descent though.

SUN: Yes, that's true. And a lot of that is because this one film that is the most surprising frontrunner that anybody can think of. "Everything Everywhere All at Once" happens to be a film that has a lot of people of Asian dissent, both in front of and behind the camera. And because they received so many Oscar nominations, that has -- that movie has almost single-handedly pulled up and caused what is actually a record historic year for Asian nominees.

There are four Asian actors nominated, which is the most that have ever been nominated in any given year. However, that's four out of 20 acting slots.


SUN: So, certainly it's notable but it is still one of those things that is not necessarily sustainable. They need a big Asian centric film like in "Everything Everywhere" or like "Parasite" in 2019 to be able to bolster those numbers.

BRUNHUBER: So, even though there hasn't been that sea change in diversity, there still has been a backlash to the little progress that has been made. What have you been seeing?

SUN: That's definitely true and I think that has to do with our perception bias. Because we are so used to seeing whiteness as the norm, it's more noticeable when you have the presence of -- the increased presence of people of color. So, just as the statistics that I quoted from USC Annenberg bear out, there are now more than twice as many people of color among the nominees than there were before. Again, that's eight to 17 percent. But there's oftentimes a perception, especially, the more we talk about it that it seems that they are dominating in a way that isn't actually true.

So, there is this -- there's a section of people who think, of well, you know, we're getting away from a meritocracy if we do that.


But the -- I do believe there are just as many people in the industry who truly believe that this is actually the way to meritocracy. It's to make sure that we're dismantling our unconscious biases, to make sure that we're actually really giving all sorts of filmmakers and all sorts of films a shot. And in so doing, you know, we are seeing a more diverse field.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We have about 30 seconds before we go, but I just wanted to ask you, are you expecting any surprises?

SUN: I think if anybody who has been paying attention to Oscars in the past few years, you should be able to say, you should always expect surprises at this point. There are a few frontrunners in this year's race. And so, I think that it won't -- the results won't deviate from that. I do expect there to be security at this year's Oscars. So, I do not expect surprises in that respect.

BRUNHUBER: Well, looking forward to watching. Thanks so much for your analysis, Rebecca Sun. I really appreciate it.

SUN: Thank you. BRUNHUBER: American, Mikaela Shiffrin is now the greatest World Cup skier in history, men or women. Shiffrin made history on Saturday capturing her slalom event in Sweden, crushing her closest competitor by 9/10th of a second. Sweden's Ingmar Stenmark held the title since 1989. Fellow Americans skier and gold medalist Bode Miller called Shiffrin a once in a millennium athlete.

I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more "CNN Newsroom". Please do stay with us.