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CNN International: New Accounts of Sexual Violence Committed by Hamas on October 7; First Draft of COP28 Agreement Calls for Fossil Fuel Phase-Out; Scholar Alleges Pressure from Facebook Got Her Fired. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 04:30   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Nearly two months after the shocking attack on Israel, the Israeli military says it won't wait for the end of the war to start investigating potential failures in preventing the terror attack. Among the issues to be studied is Israel's decision to move reinforcement troops from the Gaza border to the West Bank in the days before the massive assault.

Israel's channel 11 reported Sunday that more than 100 reinforcement combat troops were relocated on October 5th to coincide with the Jewish High Holiday.

Israel is trying to draw the world's attention to some of the most horrific crimes committed by Hamas during that siege, torture and sexual violence against women and girls. Hamas denies the allegations, saying they are, quote, unfounded lies. But Israeli police are compiling evidence, interrogating suspects, and collecting witness accounts. Building a case that Hamas targeted, tortured, and killed women as a specific component of their assault. Bianna Golodryga has the details and a warning that her report contains graphic and disturbing content.


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST AND ANCHOR (voice over): The details are horrific. Listen to this Israeli paramedic, whose rescue unit responded to the massacre at kibbutz Be'eri. He did not want to be identified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we were storming through those houses, one of the doors, I opened the bedroom. I see two girls, two teenagers, I guess, 13 or 14 years old. One was lying on the floor. One was lying on the bed.

The one on the floor was lying on her stomach. Her pants are pulled down toward her knees, and there's a bullet wound down her -- the back side of her neck, near her head. And there's a puddle of blood around her head. And there's remains of semen on the lower part of her back.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): A volunteer at the Shura IDF military base, where many of the victims of the massacre have been sent, testified at a U.N. event in Geneva last week, describing the evidence of sexual violence she saw on some of the bodies.

SHERI MENDES, IDF VOLUNTEER: Our team commander saw several soldiers who were shot in the crotch and intimate areas in their vaginas or they were shot in their breasts. This seemed to be systematic genital mutilation of a group of victims.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Despite all of that, the UN and its women's rights affiliates remain silent on the mounting specific allegations.


RUTH HALPERIN-KADDARI, INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Their response was really devastating, was heartbreaking for me.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari is an international women's rights advocate and for 12 years, helped lead the United Nations committee on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

HALPERIN-KADDARI: Neither of them acknowledged or recognized that the existence, the fact that sexual violence was part of the Hamas massacre. And by not acknowledging this, by dismissing, by ignoring, they are in fact, almost, I would say, legitimizing the existence of these atrocities.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): I asked a representative from U.N. Women about that. Her answer speaks for itself.

GOLODRYGA: Is there a reason though, Sarah, that you can't specifically call out Hamas and the mounting evidence now over seven weeks that Israeli investigators have collected that we've shown our viewers about the atrocities they committed specifically on October 7th?

SARAH HENDRICKS, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. WOMEN: Indeed. U.N. Women always supports impartial, independent investigations into any serious allegations of gender-based or sexual violence. And within the U.N. family, these investigations are led by the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Then three days later, finally, an acknowledgment from U.N. Women. A statement of their own.

We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7th. We are alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks.

And over the weekend, even more accounts coming to light. "The Sunday Times" quoted a 39-year-old witness who attended the Nova Music Festival.

I saw this beautiful woman with the face of an angel and eight or 10 of the fighters beating and raping her. She was screaming, Stop it already. I'm going to do die already from what you are doing. Just kill me. When they finished, they were laughing, and the last one shot her in the head. A police commander leading Israel's investigation into sexual violence and crime said:

It's clear now that sexual crimes were part of the planning, and the purpose was to terrify and humiliate people.

Being able to prove that the crimes were planned is critical in prosecuting such cases.

HALPERIN-KADDARI: Recall that the massacre actually took place in 22 locations at the same time. The same method in which these horrific atrocities were executed by the terrorists in separate locations, in different locations, all at the same time. This demonstrates a preconceived and premeditated plan. And that is why it does amount to crimes against humanity.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Bianna Golodryga, CNN, New York.




NOBILO: Carbon emissions are expected to set a new world record in 2023. Scientists with the Global Carbon Project say global emissions could rise 1.1 percent this year when compared to 2022. That's 36.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere. The good news is that the U.S. is expected to cut its emissions by 3 percent, while the EU could reach a 7.4 percent reduction. However, China is up 4 percent and India shows more than an 8 percent increase. Coal and oil emissions are also growing significantly in both of those nations.

The first draft of the COP28 Climate Summit's agreement is calling for the phasing out of fossil fuels. The draft does offer several options, including the choice for parties to phase out in a, quote, orderly way. Another option would allow nations to possibly rapidly reduce fossil fuel usage and, in this way, leaving plenty of room for negotiators to water down the language in the final text. So, let's go now live to Dubai, where CNN's Eleni Giokos is standing by. Eleni, has a response to these options being warm or cool and what's on the agenda for the rest of the day?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, you gave a lot of numbers now. And the reality is it all comes down to the final language. It's deciding on whether the world is going to phase out fossil fuels or phase down fossil fuels. And that's been a point of contention not only at this COP but also the previous COP.

We have seen communiques being released. You've got to understand that these come with huge delays. And of course, you've got different sides of the spectrum, people coming together and saying we have to be pragmatic and absolutely realistic, that if we phase down and we phase down aggressively, that could cause some kind of socioeconomic crisis. And then phasing out just means, you know, way too much aggressive stance against fossil fuels. And what is the replacement going to be and what would that look like? What does it mean for the world?

The good news is, Bianca, that 118 countries have committed to tripling renewable energy in their countries by 2030. And frankly, it's the private sector that's really been pushing interventions. While policymakers are still trying to come up with communiques and mechanisms to make things happen, it is the private sector that's making a lot of change. And joining me now, I've got the CEO of Octopus Energy, Greg Jackson, joining me. And we've been having a lot of conversations about what the future is going to look like. But I want to start off with what Octopus Energy is doing. And you've got a platform across various countries and you're thinking about households in a very different way to sort of the traditional energy producers. How are you making a change?

GREG JACKSON, FOUNDER AND CEO, OCTOPUS ENERGY: Thank you. Look, the reality is that renewable energy is the cheapest energy we've ever had in most countries now, and it's getting cheaper every year. But the way we use it is different. For example, the way you use an electric car is different than the way you use a petrol car. If we can fill your battery when it's sunny and when it's windy, then we can do it cheaper than you'd ever imagine. You know, maybe 1,000 miles for $20 or $30.00. So, what we need to do is enable people to get the benefits of a renewable system.

GIOKOS: OK, so what is the hold up?


GIOKOS: Because I mentioned private sector is really keen. I've met so many companies with amazing technologies. They say they can make significant changes. And yet the action on the ground doesn't match the climate's emergency.

JACKSON: Yes, so look, whether we're talking about rich countries or even some developing countries, there's a lot of capital available to build the infrastructure we need to build the projects. But everywhere we go, you know, bureaucracy is the problem. Getting hold of permits can take, you know, many, many years and connecting to grids can be almost impossible in some countries. The energy system we have today was built over the last 100 years. The changes we need to make will revolutionize it over the next 10 years.

GIOKOS: So, we're talking about getting rid of legacy systems essentially. But how quickly can we do that?

JACKSON: Hey, look --

GIOKOS: Because we've got to act fast.

JACKSON: Yes, look, I mean, we can build a wind farm in a few weeks. A few months at the most. But the permits can take five or ten years or more.


So, what we need to be able to do is say to communities, if they want the benefits of cheap, secure, reliable power, which happens to be clean as well, then, you know, it's incredibly popular. So, we need to reform the bureaucracies.

GIOKOS: OK, so when you -- I know you've been attending a lot of the conversations here that are being had. Are you feeling optimistic this COP?

JACKSON: We do have all the solutions. And look, people talk about things like nuclear fusion, which could be incredible. But we don't need to wait for those technologies. Look, we didn't have to wait for 5G before we made the smartphone. And so today, the thing we need to do is electrify everything we can. Electrify transport, electrify heating, electricity industry where we can. That electricity can come from renewables. Maybe, you know, we fill the gaps with gas until we have other solutions.

GIOKOS: We've just come off the hottest year on record. Scientists are saying we're probably going to reach that 1.5 degrees Celsius targets. What's your perspective?

JACKSON: Hey, look, the way climate change works is it's exponential. If this has been the hottest year on record, and we've had so many hottest years records broken year after year. We've locked that in for decades to come. We cannot act fast enough. Because even when we hit net zero, the climate is still going to keep changing until the amount of carbon dioxide drops.

GIOKOS: Phase out or phase down of fossil fuels. Where do you stand?

JACKSON: Look, what really matters is building the system that we replace fossil fuels. Focus on how we build a clean electricity system. Means that, you know, at the end of the day, we'll probably outcompete fossil fuels. They'll become redundant as we give people better solutions.

GIOKOS: Greg, great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.

And Bianca, there you have it. I mean, look, we've got to be realistic about what fossil fuels means for our energy portfolio. How quickly we can try and replace it with better systems, better energy sources? But the reality remains the same. The conversations are still being had and more action is required on the ground.

NOBILO: Eleni, always so good to see you and thank you very much for bringing us that interview that was really interesting. I appreciate it. That was a Eleni Giokos for us in Dubai.

Now still to come, a renowned disinformation researcher claims that she was fired from Harvard because of pressure from Facebook. Details coming up ahead.



NOBILO: Monday marked 250 days since "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich was taken into Russian custody. And his family says the ordeal is only getting more painful. A Moscow court recently extended his pretrial detention to January the 30th. Gershkovich was arrested in March while on assignment in Russia. And he's accused of trying to obtain state secrets, which he denies. And the U.S. government declared him wrongfully detained. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. His family recently spoke to CNN about the struggle that they have to stay positive.


ELIA MILMAN, EVAN GERSHKOVICH'S MOTHER: He is in Moscow at the Lefortovo prison, which is a tough one. It's designed to isolate you, to break you down. And the letters that he receives gives him a lifeline to keep his spirits up. He needs to fight every single day. As he put it in his letter to me that it's like swimming against the stream every single day. He's fighting to keep his spirits up, his mental strength, his physical strength. He exercises, he walks outside of his cell. It's six steps, six steps, six steps and six steps. And it's tough.


NOBILO: Evans family is urging the U.S. government to bring him home as soon as possible, and they're asking people to keep him in their thoughts by saving an empty seat for Evan at their holiday tables as his family did on Thanksgiving.

There are concerns about the influence that major tech companies could exert on independent research institutions. Now that's after a scholar who studies disinformation on social media, says Harvard University, shut down her research and ultimately fired her. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has this story.


JOAN DONOVAN, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: This was going to be a knockdown, drag out fight for my academic freedom.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, Dr. Joan Donovan has been widely considered one of the top experts on social media disinformation. She wrote dozens of papers, authored a book about extremism online, even testified before Congress.

DONOVAN: Misinformation is a threat to national security.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): She led a special program at Harvard called the Technology and Social Change Research Project, until she says she was forced out.

DONOVAN: Harvard tried to destroy my career. I believe it was just the decision of the dean to terminate me because I was making trouble for the donors.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The donors, she's referring to are Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, who both attended Harvard. They gave a $500 million donation in 2021. But the trouble is part of Donovan's research involves holding big tech companies like the company Zuckerberg founded Meta, which includes Facebook, accountable for everything from disinformation, to teen suicides, to war propaganda.

In 2021, when a Facebook whistleblower leaked thousands of internal company documents, Donovan began building a database at Harvard to make all the documents publicly available.

DONOVAN: I believe these were the most important documents in internet history. I saw these Facebook papers as evidence that Facebook knew the harms it was causing and did nothing about it. Akin to the way in which tobacco companies tried to hide research about lung cancer.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): After that, she believes Meta began turning up the pressure on Harvard.

DONOVAN: I don't think I would have been in the position that I'm in right now if I had not proceeded with this project.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Donovan would help from a group called Whistleblower Aid sent this complaint to Harvard, the U.S. Secretary of Education, and the Massachusetts Attorney General, alleging Harvard officials began adopting Meta's language and questioned Dr. Donovan's research methodologies, specifically with respect to Facebook.

Leadership was taking cues from Meta and acting on behalf of Meta's best interests and compared Meta's behavior to big tobacco, oil and gas and Big Pharma, each of which manipulated institutions into producing research products that supported their respective industries.

DONOVAN: This field is being run by tech oligarchs who believe that academic research should be a wing of their PR.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Meta has long pushed back against research that blames the company for harming society, but the company did not comment for this story.

Harvard told CNN in a statement: Allegations of unfair treatment and donor interference are false. The narrative is full of inaccuracies and bases insinuations particularly the suggestion that Harvard Kennedy School allowed Facebook to dictate its approach to research.

The spokesperson said the Facebook leaked document project ended up going ahead and the university's work on online disinformation continues. But Donovan says Harvard has damaged its credibility.

DONOVAN: I mean, it's gut it. Here I am at Harvard believing that they would protect the sanctity of the truth, and that they were understanding that this work was going to ruffle some feathers. But what I didn't imagine was that I would need protection from Harvard itself.

O'SULLIVAN: And as he saw in that piece there, Meta had nothing to say about this story. When we asked him about it, Zuckerberg, and his wife's foundation, however, have put out a statement saying they had no involvement in Dr. Donovan's departure from Harvard and was unaware of that development before public reporting on it. That a statement from the Chan, Zuckerberg Initiative. Back to you.


NOBILO: That does it here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. "EARLY START" with Kasie Hunt is up next.