Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Deadly Storms, Dangerous Flooding Hit California; 3 Women Missing After Crossing Border from Texas; Medical Tourism Now a Growing Business in Mexico; Ukraine Braces for Potential Future Russian Strikes; BBC's Saturday Football Show Airs From Empty Studio; Biden Speaks with California Gov. About Silicon Valley Bank; White House Says it has Expanded Legal Pathways for Migrants; Mass Rallies Against Judicial Reform Plans Enter 10th Week. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 12, 2023 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and 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.


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


BRUNHUBER: Millions of Californians assessing the destruction caused by deadly floods and winter storms as more rain is expected throughout the weekend. And as more details come to light from that deadly kidnapping in Mexico, we'll look at the growing business of medical tourism in the country.

Plus, the BBC's soccer coverage plunged into chaos have been the spiraling fallout from the Gary Lineker impartiality controversy in the U.K.

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

BRUNHUBER: We begin this hour in California, where a series of deadly storms has unleashed historic snowfalls and massive flooding across much of the state. The White House, telling CNN that President Biden spoke with California Governor Gavin Newsom again on Saturday. President telling the Governor that California has the full support of the federal government. It's likely to be a long sleepless night and soggy weekend for many across the state, especially in Monterey county. It's the latest epicenter of extreme weather. A levee breach causing catastrophic flooding. Mandatory evacuations now underway. In all, some 15 million people are under flood alerts in California and Nevada. At least two people have died in this most recent storm.

Now, this week's atmospheric river is the 10th to hit the state this winter. It's dropped more than a foot of rain in some areas and several feet of snow in others. Another storm system arriving in a matter of days.

And to add insult, injury, Saturday's levee breach in Monterey County has been described as a worst-case scenario by officials. 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 and the town center of Pajaro. Now, about 5 kilometers away, we have a levee that was breached several hours ago. And that's why we have all of this water being dumped into the center of this small town in Monterey County on 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 to when he told us they realized the levy 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 03:00 a.m. this morning. We did have the high-water team with us. That's part of the emergency operations center. They've 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 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 this levee fixed by Tuesday and Wednesday, we could have even more water here in the center of town. Mike Valerio, CNN, Pajaro, California.


BRUNHUBER: The state of Texas is urging people not to visit Mexico for spring break. Department of Public Safety there is warning that a spike in drug cartel violence across the border could cost travelers their lives.

This, as we learn of yet another group now missing after crossing the border. The three women from Texas disappeared two weeks ago while on their way to sell clothes at a flea market. CNN's Rafael Romo has more.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been just a little over a week since four Americans from South Carolina were attacked and kidnapped in Mexico. As we previously reported, two of them tragically were killed. And now there's a new mystery, three women living in Texas are believed to be missing in Mexico after they crossed the U.S. border over two weeks ago, according to police.

Authorities say the women are two sisters and a friend who crossed into Mexico on February 24. They were headed to the city of Montemorelos in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to sell clothes at a flea market.


Mexican authorities told CNN about 80 agents from several law enforcement agencies are looking for the women. Regarding the kidnapped Americans, CNN has obtained and geolocated new video showing all four of them just hours before they were attacked on March 3. It was a live stream video taken by one of the victims. The images showed the group driving to a medical appointment in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, but they never made it there.

Mexico is the second most popular destination for medical tourism globally. In 2020 alone, there were an estimated 1.4 to 3 million patients traveling into the country to take advantage of inexpensive treatment, according to Patients Beyond Borders, an international healthcare consulting company contacted by CNN. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


BRUNHUBER: So, as Rafael was just mentioning, the deadly kidnapping cases now put a greater spotlight on medical tourism, which has become a growing business in Mexico.

For more on this, David Vequist is the Founder and Director of the Center for Medical Tourism Research and he's with us from San Antonio.

Thanks so much for being here with us. So we just heard some 1.4 million people traveling to Mexico for medical tourism. There are whole towns essentially set up to cater to medical tourists like the so-called Molar City, a town with some 300 dentists. So typically tell us who were the ones traveling to Mexico, what's driving them?

DAVID VEQUIST, FOUNDER & DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MEDICAL TOURISM RESEARCH: Thank you, Kim. Thank you for having me. It's a very complex issue, but essentially what we find is there tends to be a bimodal distribution.

We do see people that are tend to be more affluent, tend to travel for health care, and also those that are -- have less access to health care and less disposable income. That are going there to get basically, the value proposition of lower cost health care. BRUNHUBER: Yeah, that value proposition can be pretty dramatic. Prices

can be some, you know, what, 50% to 80% cheaper. So lack of insurance is part of this, right? But I thought the Affordable Care Act was supposed to help shield Americans, to give them coverage to fill the gaps there. So that doesn't seem to have happened?

VEQUIST: Yes. So health care is an interesting industry. What happens is when you look at your copays and then a deductible, which could be in the thousands of dollars, if the cost of the care is either less than the deductible or at the same price of the deductible, then you're functionally uninsured.

And so what people find is that they are better off paying in a cash payment in Mexico than actually using their deductible or paying up to their deductible for their insurance.

BRUNHUBER: So this has really put a spotlight on violence. How common is violent crime there in Mexico? And I'm wondering if this fatal incident will have Americans rethinking these types of trips?

VEQUIST: Well, I can't speak to the actual frequency, but I can speak to the impact on the Mexican economy that many more people would be traveling to Mexico for health care procedures.

We already see upwards of 1.3% of Americans traveling internationally for health care. And, for example, comparable numbers in Europe show that about 4% of all Europeans travel across borders for healthcare.

There was a University of Michigan research study that showed that the violence in Mexico is perhaps dampening their total GDP by upwards of 21%. About 46% of that total difference is caused by violent crime. So there would be many more people traveling for health care, I suspect, if it wasn't for the threat to safety and security.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah. And this latest incident certainly won't help, although the government is very quick to say, you know, this is an isolated incident.

People don't have to be scared to come. But the -- the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they say it's risky going abroad for medical care, for medical reasons. So what are those risks?

VEQUIST: So the medical risks are actually typically overstated because the data -- the empirical data we have, shows that, for example, in Mexico, there doesn't appear to be significant differences in the actual complication rates.

The CDC data itself, just released a couple of years ago, shows an overall 5% complication rate -- comparable complication rates in the United States are anywhere from 4% to potentially higher.


So we actually don't have data that shows that quality is low. In fact, interestingly, around the same time that the Patient Affordable Protection Act was passed, what we found is that the Mexican federal government implemented accreditation standards that have brought their hospitals up to similar standards in the United States. So we suspect that actually, the quality of health care is fairly high.

Now, traveling anywhere, particularly long distances, does expose you to potentially new bacteria and viruses and can increase your overall infection rates. But overall, we suspect that the medical risks are relatively low.

BRUNHUBER: All right, we have 30 seconds left. But just, you know, for anybody who's thinking of going overseas or specifically to Mexico for health care, what advice do you have for them?

VEQUIST: So it truly is buyer beware. Most people get their access to information through the internet, of course, but several studies have shown, overall, that about a third of information on the internet is out of date, a third is incorrect. So only about a third of the information you read about healthcare on the internet is accurate and up to date. And many people are taking to crowdsourcing of information through various forums, social media, or from their family and friends to find out. So it's truly a buyer beware situation before you make that type of decision.

BRUNHUBER: All right, important advice. David Vequist in San Antonio. Thanks so much for being here with us.

VEQUIST: Thank you, Kim. Thank you.

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

Plus, the BBC's top soccer presenter is suddenly sidelined, sending Saturday's programs into chaos. We'll go live to London for more on the furious fallout over the BBC's Gary Lineker.

Plus, the deepening crisis along the U.S. southern border. How technology intended to streamline immigration is creating new hurdles for asylum seekers? Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Ukraine says this video is of close combat for control of Bakhmut. Officials say Russian troops walked into an ambush set by Ukrainian snipers in the city's industrial zone. Six Russian troops were reportedly killed. The footage posted by Ukraine's border guard doesn't show any people, but gunshots can be heard there. Now, CNN couldn't geo locate the video, but nothing in it suggests it's not from Bakhmut.

Meanwhile, the leader of Russia's Wagner Mercenary says his forces are now just about one kilometer away from Bakhmut center. He also gave his reasons why his group went into Ukraine in the first place. Here he is.


YEVGENIY 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 rating, the army must become weaker and weaker until the Russians say, what the (bleep) is our self-consciousness?


BRUNHUBER: So, for more on all of this, Scott McLean joins us from London. So Scott, Ukraine is stepping up security and defenses in anticipation of more strikes, which you've already seen today, to deadly effect, unfortunately. What are you seeing?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kim, those deadly strikes that you mentioned, Ukrainians say that Russian shelling has killed two people, injured more in two towns in eastern Ukraine, in the Donetsk region, one not far from Bakhmut, where we know a lot of the fiercest fighting is taking place. And another town is closer to the city of Donetsk. Of course, Ukraine is still continuing to recover from that absolutely massive missile attack. A series of missile attacks that took place across the country on Thursday, 95 Russian missiles, according to the Ukrainians, were launched, killing at least eleven people, injuring many, many more.

And the Interior Minister says that security measures are being beefed up around critical infrastructure, around residential areas in Ukraine to try to be more prepared the next time this happens. Though he didn't say specifically as to what exactly those may be.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Kyiv says that the heat is back on across city after that wave of missile strikes took out heat to about a third of homes there in Kharkiv in the northeast. Yesterday, city officials said that the electricity was 100% back on across the city after engineers worked for two days to try to restore it. And then just this morning, we've got word that the electricity is back on across the entire Kharkiv region, though there appears to still be an issue with the electric trains that run on Kharkiv's metro system.

Last night, President Zelenskyy said that since the start of this year, so less than two and a half months, there have been more than 40 missile strikes on the Kharkiv region alone. He also said this. Listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Missiles and artillery, drones and mortars, the evil state uses a variety of weapons, but with one goal to destroy life and leave nothing human, ruins, debris, shell holes in the ground are a self- portrait of Russia, which it paints for normal life reigns without Russia.


MCLEAN: So Kim, of the 95 missiles the Ukrainians say were fired at its territory, they say that they managed to shoot down 34 of them, so just over one third. Some of them, about half a dozen were Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, which the Ukrainian's air defense system, frankly, is not well equipped to actually shoot down.


]An adviser to President Zelenskyy said last week after the attack that, frankly, the air defense system was not coping well enough. This is just one more argument that the Ukrainians will surely use to try to convince Western allies to send even more sophisticated air defense equipment to try to protect the interior of the country. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, absolutely. All right, thanks so much. Scott McLean in London.

The head of the BBC, Tim Davie, says he has no intention of resigning in the wake of Saturday's collapsed soccer programming and the chaos it's caused. The British broadcaster's soccer coverage fell off a cliff after Gary Lineker, the former England captain and a longtime BBC presenter, was abruptly pulled from his hosting duties. On Saturday night, Lineker's flagship show, Match of the Day, was shrunk to 20 minutes of clips and not a word of commentary.

Players and experts boycotted the studio in solidarity with the star host. The BBC took the unusual action against Lineker after he tweeted a harshly worded criticism of the U.K. government's proposed new immigration policy, saying it invoked 1930s Germany. The BBC claims Lineker violated its policy on impartiality, but some labor leaders are accusing the BBC of trying to silence him. Fans at the King Power Stadium were having their say about it on Saturday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I disagree with the whole banning element. I think he has the right to reflect what other people are thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support him. I'm glad to see that all the players that are the pundits have supported him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should be able to say what you want to say, but, you know, I think you have to let things into context. And I don't think he's really done that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just expressing opinion which happens to be logged with what the government said.


BRUNHUBER: CNN Sports Senior Analyst Darren Lewis joins us live from London. Darren, such a huge story in the U.K. I mean, it's hard for American viewers to overstate how influential match of the day is there. The reverberations have been monumental and very far reaching. So, first, how has the BBC reacted to all of this? DARREN LEWIS, CNN SENIOR SPORTS ANALYST: Well, the BBC Director General, Tim Davie, apologized yesterday to staff and, more importantly, to viewers over the disruption to the sport schedule.

And you talked a second ago, you know, Kim, about wanting to grasp how important this is. The match of the Day Football Highlights show is watched by 60% of the British population. That is, around 40 million people in some way, shape or form, either on TV, on mobile phones or on laptops. It is consumed in various different ways. And Gary Lineker, having played for England and scored goals at World Cups, helped England to the World Cup semifinal in 1990 and played for four different English clubs.

He's a very, very popular figure here in the U.K. As such, there was a huge support -- show of support for him yesterday, both from his colleagues and other staff within the BBC. I want to point you, I've got the phone right here, Kim, full disclosure to a statement made by one of his colleagues, Ian Dennis, who is a Senior Football Reporter yesterday, and he talked about it being a very difficult time for the BBC sport, for all those who work in the department. He says, we all hope that it gets resolved. The trouble is, Kim, it doesn't look as though it's is going to be resolved anytime soon.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, probably not. There has been such a huge outcry from the sports world, from athletes, so much support for Lineker. What are you seeing there?

LEWIS: Clubs across the country yesterday declared that they would not speak to the BBC. Also, the Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, the highest profile of those. What I would say is this the whole debate will continue today.

Other programs are slated, but they are set to be pulled because staff say they will not work on them. And it is a watershed moment for British broadcasters. The question here in the U.K. is this, is it still feasible to ask broadcasters to lead their opinions on the stories that matter to us all at the door? I suspect, Kim, it will be one even for your WhatsApp group.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, no kidding. The implications for the BBC and for the U.K. government could be far reaching here. Darren Lewis in London. I'm sure we'll be returning to this in the future, thanks so much for being here with us.

LEWIS: Thank you, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Well, you might say Mikaela Shiffrin has broken the snow ceiling by winning her 87th World Cup race. The American is now the greatest World Cup skier in history, man or woman. Shiffrin made history on Saturday, capturing her a slalom event in Sweden, crushing her closest competitor by an enormous nine tenths of a second. Sweden's Ingemar Stenmark held the title since 1989. Fellow American skier and gold medalist Bode Miller called Shiffrin a once in a millennium athlete.

[05:25:12] The revered U.S. Football coach Bud Grant has died at the age of 95. Grant coached the Minnesota Vikings for 18 seasons into the 1980s, winning numerous divisional titles. They reached the Super Bowl four times with lead league's top prize eluded them. Grant also spent 14 seasons as a player and a coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, winning Canada's Football championship four times. And Grant was very versatile. He also played two seasons of pro basketball, winning an NBA championship as a rookie. The Vikings owners called the hall of Famer a once in a lifetime man forever synonymous with success.

All right, still ahead, tech startups are scrambling after the second largest collapse of a financial institution in U.S. history. We'll look at what could come next in Silicon Valley Bank saga.

And just say no, we'll tell you why that's the advice experts have for former President Donald Trump as he huddles with his team in Florida, deciding his next legal move. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN Newsroom.

President Joe Biden discussed the sudden collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank with California's governor. The White House says the two leaders spoke about efforts to address the situation. During their call about the state's weather emergency the bank's collapse is the second largest failure of a fire financial institution in U.S. history. CNN's Matt Egan has more.



MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: This happened so fast. It is stunning. Silicon Valley Bank may not be a household name, but it held 200 billion plus dollars in assets. That makes this the second biggest collapse of a bank in U.S. history, behind only the 2008 implosion of Washington Mutual.

Now, the FDIC has seized control of this bank. The FDIC says that depositors will get access to their cash by Monday morning, up to the $250,000 insurance limit. But we know that some startups and individuals and small businesses, they hold more than $250,000 at this bank. And it's not really clear what's going to happen and whether or not they're going to get all of their money back.

So how did we get here and how did we get here so fast? Well, shares of this bank's parent company collapsed 60% on Thursday after warning of a rapid need to raise cash. And that appeared to spark a run on the bank with some companies racing to pull their money.

This is also a symptom of the Federal Reserve's war on inflation because we know that interest rate spikes like the one going on right now tends to break things somewhere in the financial market. We also know that the Fed's rate hikes have hurt the value of tech companies, the same tech companies that Silicon Valley Bank caters to. This also hurt the value of the bonds that banks like this one rely on for funding.

Now, U.S. Financial regulators, they held an unscheduled meeting on Friday to discuss this bank failure. And I spoke to Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo and asked him what he thinks about this situation. Listen to what he said.


WALLY ADEYEMO, U.S. TREASURY DEPUTY SECRETARY: That the federal regulators are paying attention to this particular financial institution, and that when we think about the broader financial system, we're very confident in the ability and the resilience of the system, and also the fact that we have the tools that are necessary to deal with incidents like what's happened to Silicon Valley Bank.


EGAN: Now, thankfully, experts I'm talking to, they're hopeful that this is more of an isolated incident than a systemic one. Most banks are not as exposed as this one-to-one single sector. Major banks, they lend to, not just tech companies, but retailers and factories and media companies.

Moody's Chief Economist Mark Zandi, he told me that he doesn't think that this failure is a sign of broader trouble in banking and that the system is as well capitalized as ever. Let's hope so, because the last thing we need is a series of bank failures. Back to you.


BRUNHUBER: Former President Donald Trump is making some serious legal decisions this weekend. According to a source, he's meeting with his legal team at Mar-a-Lago to consider whether to appear before a New York grand jury. It's investigating his alleged role in hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims she was paid off to deny their alleged affair. Manhattan prosecutors invited Trump to appear before the grand jury this week, but legal experts aren't sure that's in his best interest.


ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There would be no reason for him to do that. Now, this is actually an unusual feature of New York state law. This isn't just the prosecutors being nice and giving him a chance to do this. They have to give any potential defendant a chance to come in and testify in the grand jury.

That's actually not the law in many states, that's certainly not the law federally. But there's no upside here. Donald Trump is not going to talk a grand jury out of doing whatever it might do. All he can do is give information that could be used to incriminate him in this case or in many of the other civil lawsuits and pending criminal investigations against him. So easy, call for Donald Trump here. Thank you for the invitation, but I respectfully decline.


BRUNHUBER: Former Vice President Mike Pence had harsh words for his ex-boss at a dinner in Washington in D.C. Saturday. He scolded Trump for the role he played in the U.S. Capitol riots. Pence called January 6, 2021, "a tragic day" and insisted Trump was wrong to claim Pence had the authority to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Pence said Trump's words were, "reckless and endangered his family." The former V.P. also declared, "history will hold Donald Trump accountable."

The White House is facing renewed criticism for its handling of migrants at the U.S. Southern border, with some 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: In a deep canyon in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of San Diego, the dreams of children like Arthur Salazar (ph), a nine-year-old from Guatemala.


(On camera): What's your biggest, biggest dream? To arrive to the U.S.?

(Voice-over): And the flaws of the broken U.S. immigration system come into focus.

(On camera): I see little hands and bigger hands?

LINDSAY WEISSERT: Yes. Yeah. So we serve preschool age and elementary age children.

FLORES: Lindsay Weissert opened the school for migrant Children three years ago and says the current border policies have migrants waiting in Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S.

WEISSERT: My biggest concern is the toll that these policies are going to take on children.

FLORES: Do you like science?


FLORES: Arthur arrived in December and said the weight is depressing and sad.

(On camera): Why is it sad?

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

His mom, Jennifer, opened this food stand in front of the school. FLORES: What are you waiting for?

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need a cellphone. The first problem.

FLORES: The head of Tijuana's Migrant Services says about 5600 migrants live in shelters and the one port of entry nearby only takes 200 appointments a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not enough.

FLORES: Lucero (ph) says not one person has gotten an appointment in the largest shelter in town, where Jennifer wakes up at three or 04:00 a.m. to try the app.

(On camera): And so it's error after error, after error?

(Voice-over): She took screen grabs. One is a wheel of death. The app asks for a selfie but doesn't capture her face.

(On camera): This is another one. It says that she must be close to the border here in Tijuana. This is a border town.

(Voice-over): Then candidate Joe Biden said this, during the final presidential debate in 2020.

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

FLORES: 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?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a migrant child who was here learning. And they're most likely in the U.S. now.

FLORES: Their hope that dreams come true.

(On camera): The White House pushes back on comparisons of current border policies 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: Top U.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci bristled on Saturday when CNN Anchor Jim Acosta asked him about people who want to arrest and prosecute him for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here he is.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I mean, prosecute me for what? What are they talking about? I mean, I wish I could figure out what the heck they were talking about. I think they're just going off the deep end. That's the answer to your first question. It doesn't make any sense to say something like that, and it actually is irresponsible.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden's former Chief Medical Adviser was answering comments made this week at a congressional subcommittee. Fauci said misinformation and lies have impacted his life, adding he still needs protection because of threats. He says it's still unproven whether COVID originated in a lab leak or came from animals. And people should keep an open mind.

Plans to overhaul Israel's judicial system are facing more protests. Coming up, why a former prime minister reportedly said this is his country's greatest crisis ever.

Plus, the messy politics of pension reform in France. Something is in the air in Paris, and it doesn't smell sweet. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: There's been new violence today in the occupied West Bank. Israel's military says it shot dead three Palestinians and detained a fourth after Israeli troops came under fire. The IDF says it recovered three rifles, a handgun, and magazines from the alleged assailants. The Palestinian Health Ministry confirms three Palestinians were killed near Nablus. CNN hasn't been able to confirm the IDF's version of events.

Meanwhile, protests against plans to overhaul the Israeli judicial system have entered their 10th week. Have a look, this was the scene in Tel Aviv. Demonstrators packing the streets. Organizers say half a million people turned out for Saturday's rallies. This out of an Israeli population of just more than 9 million. Allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who happens to be on trial for alleged corruption, say the reforms are needed to balance the government. But critics say this is an authoritarian power grab aimed at removing checks and balances. Netanyahu rival and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid reportedly told a crowd this is Israel's greatest crisis ever.

He was quoted by the Haaretz newspaper saying this, "a wave of terrorism is hitting us. Our economy is crashing, money is escaping the country. Iran just signed yesterday a new agreement with Saudi Arabia, but the only thing this government cares about is crushing Israeli democracy."

CNN's Hadas Gold was at one of the rallies in Jerusalem and she reports organizers are vowing to keep up their protests.


HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: For more than two months now, Israelis and the hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets on a regular basis to protest 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 where, for the first time, he spoke out against these specific reforms, saying that they are a 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 come paused.

But so far it doesn't 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 silk, 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 this and their minds, they can do so because they won a majority of seats in parliament in last November's elections. They have 64 seats at the 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 will 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: I spoke earlier with Israeli physicist and protest organizer Shikma Bressler and I asked her what's at stake with the proposed changes to the judicial system. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHIKMA BRESSLER, PROTEST ORGANIZER: Have at stake all 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's really destroying every aspects of ideas like equality, like 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: Just two days after the Islamic State claimed to have killed the governor of Afghanistan's northern Balkh Province. Journalists in that province were the apparent targets of another explosion on Saturday.

Taliban authorities say the blast killed one person and wounded eight, including several children. During an award ceremony at the Shia Cultural Center, one of the wounded spoke from his hospital bed about what happened.


MURTAZA SAMIMI, WOUNDED JOURNALIST (through translator): Journalists were supposed to be honored at an event today. The recitation of Koran was over and the Representative of Information and Culture also finished his speech and the group was singing the anthem. I was standing behind my camera and was recording the event. Suddenly I heard a terrible sound. Everything was dark, and I fell to the ground.


BRUNHUBER: Taliban authorities say Thursday's blast that killed the regional governor is still under investigation.

Iranian authorities have arrested more than 100 people in connection with the suspected poisoning of hundreds of schoolgirls. In recent months, many of them were hospitalized and treated for unexplained illnesses, Iran's state-run news reports.

Those arrested come from several cities, including the capital Tehran. According to the Interior Ministry, initial inquiries show possible motives include mischief, but also said some people wanted to create fear and horror and shut down classrooms. The suspected attack happened mostly at girls schools and comes as Iranian leaders faced women's protests over strict dress codes.

In France, the Senate has adopted President Emmanuel Macron's controversial pension reform plan, despite weeks of nationwide protests. The new legislation will gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. It was approved by a vote of 195 to 112. It still has to go through several legislative steps to become law.

Meanwhile, as Michael Holmes reports, the ongoing strikes are impacting daily life in a very unpleasant way.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Garbage piles up on the streets of Paris. It might be one of the messiest problems caused by nationwide strikes in France to protest the government plan to raise the retirement age of workers to 64.

The Paris mayor's office says more than 4000 tons of trash is waiting to be picked up around the city. But so far the rubbish not going anywhere because many garbage collectors walked off the job last Tuesday day, along with utility workers, teachers, train drivers and others to show their anger over the proposed reforms.

Workers have also blocked off trash incinerators near the city and residents say what's left on the streets is starting to stink.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): How can I describe this? It's terrible. It smells bad. It's ugly. There are rats and mice. I've seen them. So, it's horrible.

HOLMES: It's an unappetizing view outside the city's famed shops and cafes. Luxury stores surrounded by litter, bins near local eateries bursting with black plastic bags and food crates.


Some officials are asking to use more private contractors to pick up the trash as the buildup is becoming a health risk. But a union leader outside a large city incinerator says its blockade will remain in force until at least Tuesday. Michael Holmes, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: And we'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as you just saw, splashdown of crew five ...


BRUNHUBER: Three astronauts and a cosmonaut are back on earth after a five month stay on the international space station.

The SpaceX crew Dragon capsule splashed down in the gulf of Mexico on Saturday. The crew disembarked. The capsule and finally took a breath of fresh air. While on the ISS, they carried out research experiments and did maintenance on the two-decade old orbiting lab.

Hollywood is polishing the Oscar statuettes for its biggest night of the year. The 95th Academy Awards are on later today, and 10 end films are up for best picture, from popcorn favorites like Avatar: The Way of Water to the German war drama all quiet on the western front. There's something for everyone there, but it's not just about who wins, it's also what you're wearing, of course, some fashion experts are predicting the stars will be extra shiny this year with bigger and bolder bling.


The Swiss jewelry house chapel says the celebrity mega wattage is expected to be turned up with much more of a wow factor on the new champagne carpet.


CAROLINE SCHEUFELE, CHOPARD: Well, I think we are back to show more. There was certain years where it was very minimalistic, like starts and a little diamond ring and there was for many of the actresses, that was it. But I think now they're a bit back to more flamboyant that they are more trying out style. So this is actually good. It's good for the fashion, it's good for the jewelry.


BRUNHUBER: All right, then. Before we go, here is Saturday night lies take on the Oscars, specifically the new security measures following last year's slap herd around the world. Have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not that -- we're hoping for this, but are you worried at all that Will Smith is planning a second attack?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we are taking that slip very seriously. Luckily, we were able to slip one of those apple air tags into Will Smith's pocket. So we know exactly where he'll be at all times. Unless, of course, he changed his pants and then he could be anywhere. So stay frosty, everybody, stay frosty.


BRUNHUBER: The show's cold open poked fun at several Oscar nominated stars, including everything, everywhere, all at once. Actor Jamie Lee Curtis and the Banshees of Inisherin actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

I'm Kim Brunhuber. Thanks so much for watching CNN Newsroom. You can follow me on Twitter @kimbrunhuber.

For viewers in North America, CNN This Morning is next. For the rest of the world, it's Marketplace Asia.