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CNN International: Russia's Top Electoral Body Meeting; Ukraine's Mobilization Bill Clears First Hurdle in Parliament; Tucker Carlson: Inter view with Putin to be Released Tonight; Pope Knocks Critics of His Decision to Bless Same-Sex Couples; Earth Just Experienced the Hottest 12-Month Period on Record. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 08, 2024 - 04:30   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Bianca Nobilo. If you're just joining us here are some of today's top stories.

We're seeing amazing images right now out of southwest Iceland where a volcano has erupted for the second time this year. You can see the toxic smoke rising into the sky. The famed Blue Lagoon resort has been evacuated.

A special counsel has completed its investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents by U.S. President Biden. The White House is now reviewing the Justice Department report for potential executive privilege issues.

Russia's top electoral body is meeting right now to decide if an anti- war candidate will be allowed to run for president. Boris Nadezhdin says that he submitted the necessary number of signatures for his candidacy. But election officials still recommend denying his registration claiming that too many of those signatures are invalid.

Ukraine's controversial mobilization bill which would allow more people to be called up has cleared the first hurdle in Parliament. It passed its first reading on Wednesday and it could become a law if it passes a second one scheduled in about two weeks' time.

Mobilization is a major bone of contention in Ukraine but as Fred Pleitgen reports, its military is desperate for more troops.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The explosions are dangerously close as the drone team from the 92nd assault brigade set up their bird, attach the bombs and head off into battle.

While drone technology is often seen as the realm of tech-savvy youngsters, one of the pilots here is over 50.

One way or another everyone should serve, he says. It is our duty to defend our land, our families, our motherland. If you do not want to fight, what kind of citizen are you?

Ukraine is badly outgunned by the Russians but the reality is they're also outmanned, unable to recruit enough soldiers willing to join the military especially younger ones.

Decimated and exhausted, Ukraine's top general Valery Zaluzhny has called for a new mobilization drive, maybe including up to half a million people. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is unconvinced and sources tell CNN he has informed Zaluzhny he'll be fired with differences over troop numbers a key reason why.

Mobilization is unpopular and in front of Ukraine's Parliament some are protesting for their spouses to be demobilized. Antonina says her husband is too old to be serving this long.


My husband is 43 years old, she says. It is difficult for him to endure all this time on the ground, jumping from shells and performing all those tasks at the frontline and there are many people like him.

I'm here for my dad to come back, her son says.

But on the frontlines like in this rocket launching unit some say they need more people to give those who've been in combat nearly non-stop a breather. The commander of this launcher is 59. In Ukraine people can only be drafted till they're 60.

All of Ukraine is at war and each and every man who thinks he lives in Ukraine must go through it, he says, it's irreversible, people here are tired.

Ukraine's Parliament is working on a law to make mobilization more appealing and possibly allow soldiers to exit the military after three years.

But back at the drone unit they don't believe the talk.

There should be no illusions, he says.

Also, among soldiers whom politicians have given hope that there will be de-mobilization, there will not be any.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


NOBILO: Right-wing conspiracy theorist and media personality Tucker Carlson says he'll release his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin tonight. Carlson has been receiving celebrity treatment during his trip to Russia with state media following his every move.

This of course is Mr. Putin's first interview with a Western media figure since he invaded Ukraine. But Carlson has a track record of praising autocratic leaders and it remains to be seen whether he will ask tough questions or give Mr. Putin a stage to promote his spin. To delve into this subject, Nada Bashir joins us on set. Nada, if his

teaser interview, Tucker Carlson's, that he posted on Twitter is anything to go by, I mean there were quite a lot of falsehoods in that and it seemed like he was gearing up to give Vladimir Putin a platform, a sympathetic platform to make his case for this invasion.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, I mean that has been the suggestion from that teaser and in fact we have seen that really reflected in Tucker Carlson's previous interviews with other figures. As you mentioned he has shown favor in the past to autocratic figures.

He has been quite open and public about his right-wing often extremist views and there are concerns that perhaps this interview will give President Putin not only a platform but we'll see him given that platform without any challenges.

And of course, we've heard from Tucker Carlson with regards to this interview specifically. He has been very critical of English-speaking media outlets, how they have covered the war in Ukraine, in particular how they have approached President Putin.

He has accused Western media outlets of favoring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, not giving enough airtime to President Putin. Take a listen to what he said in that teaser.


TUCKER CARLSON: Not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview the president of the other country involved in this conflict, Vladimir Putin.

Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine or what his goals are now. They've never heard his voice. That's wrong.


BASHIR: That simply isn't true. We have heard from Putin repeatedly over the course of Russia's invasion and war in Ukraine. He has given numerous statements of course unchallenged. They have not been interviews. This is the first interview he has given to a Western figure, not for lack of trying of course. Many media outlets including CNN have repeatedly put in requests for interviews with President Putin as well as other senior members of the Kremlin.

In fact, that was something that the Kremlin admitted to itself in response to that from Tucker Carlson. We heard from Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, who said this is simply false. Take a listen to his statement to journalists.


DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESMAN (through translator): We receive many requests for interviews with the president. There is no desire to communicate with such media outlets and there is hardly any point in it. There is hardly any benefit from it.

He has a position that differs from the others.


BASHIR: So, an indication there as to why they have granted permission for Tucker Carlson to carry out this interview. Peskov went on to say that he doesn't view Carlson as being necessarily pro-Ukrainian or anti-Russian or pro-Russian but rather just pro-American.

But clearly there is a reason as to why he has been granted that permission and not other media outlets.

NOBILO: It will be very interesting to watch and I am curious to see if some of -- there is obviously some right-wing thinking which overlaps with this sense of NATO being the one that poked the Russian bear and a reticence to supply NATO with more funding and protect American interests. So, it's definitely something to watch. Nada, as ever, great to speak to you.

BASHIR: Thank you.

NOBILO: Rio de Janeiro's famous carnival begins tomorrow but now the city is setting up 10 care centers to fight a dengue fever epidemic that's been declared a public health emergency.

Health officials say more than 11,000 cases of the mosquito born virus have been reported so far this year. That's almost half the total number of cases for all of last year.


Carnival is expected to attract millions of people for wild festivities before Lent later on this month when many traditionally atone for their sins.

Ahead of Super Bowl 58 this Sunday, the NFL says there are no credible security threats to the game. The league's chief security officer made the announcement Wednesday during a news conference with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who will have nearly 400 workers in Las Vegas for the event this weekend.

The NFL says more than 30 federal, state, and local agencies have been working on Super Bowl security to make sure the game's 65,000 attendees are safe.

Taylor Swift's record-breaking Eras Tour movie has found its digital streaming home. The concert film, which has been available to rent on demand, will be available exclusively on Disney Plus starting on March 15th.

The Eras Tour movie raked in more than $260 million in the global box office, making it the top-selling concert film in history. Disney says the stream will include additional songs as well.

I genuinely think that we talk about Taylor Swift a lot more than we talk about Joe Biden, definitely the British Prime Minister these days, which is an impressive feat. Conservatives inside the Catholic Church have criticized Pope Francis for allowing blessings for same-sex couples, but now the pontiff is pushing back.


NOBILO: Pope Francis is pushing back against those who have criticized his decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples. He says the critics are guilty of hypocrisy. The Pontiff's comments are published in an Italian magazine interview, which will be coming out in the coming hours.

And our CNN Vatican correspondent, Christopher Lamb, is here to discuss that with us.


Chris, great to have you on the program. So, tell us more about the sense we're getting about the Pontiff's response.

CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, this is a very firm and robust response from the Pope to the critics of his move to allow blessings for same-sex couples.

Now, what Francis is doing in these remarks with the Italian magazine, Credere, is basically calling out a double standard amongst some Catholics who are scandalized by the blessing of same-sex couples, but say nothing if the Pope were to bless, he says, an entrepreneur who exploits his workers. So, the point is that Francis is saying that sins of the wallet are just as serious, if not more serious, than sins of the flesh. So, I think it's interesting because the Pope has had a significant pushback to his ruling.

Now, many people have welcomed it, but there have been bishops in Africa who said they will not be blessing same-sex couples. The Pope has said he understands that due to the cultural taboo around homosexuality. But I think his remarks in this magazine are really aimed at what he says are small groups of ideological critics, quite a few in the United States, who have really been very vocal against the Pope and saying that he's undermining church teaching and doctrine.

What the Pope is saying is, no, I'm simply blessing people or two people who love each other. He's not blessing same-sex marriage. He's not changing the teaching on marriage. But he wants a church that's open and welcoming.

Now, I think this row is going to continue to rumble on, but Francis is showing he's not going to back down.

NOBILO: Thank you so much for that update. It's a very interesting discussion to have, especially around these notions of perceived hierarchies of sin and where cultural context comes into the discussion as well. It will be a very interesting interview for sure. Christopher Lamb, thank you very much for joining us.

It is official. Global warming has surpassed the critical limit that climate scientists have warned us about for years. The EU's climate and weather monitoring service, Copernicus, says the world just experienced the warmest 12-month period in recorded history, with temperatures surpassing the dreaded threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. CNN's Elisa Raffa explains.


ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest numbers are in and they tell us that January was the warmest January on record for the globe. 1.6 degrees C above that pre-industrial average makes it the warmest January on record, and it's the eighth month in a row to break its own previous record.

Now, this is coming on the heels of the warmest year on record. 2023 was the warmest year the globe has ever seen, 1.4 degrees C above that pre-industrial average. But if you look at the next 12-month period, right, so we want to include January 2024, so that takes us back to February.

This 12-month period is now the warmest 12-month period on record. It surpasses that 1.5 degrees C threshold. Now, that number is important because when they all met in Paris, that Paris climate agreement, our climate scientists, world leaders all made that 1.5 degrees C threshold the goal. Let's try not to warm the planet past that.

Well, we've done that in the last 12-month period, and it's a sign of where things are headed.

The sea surface temperatures were also record warm in January. You can see a lot of red there on the map. The numbers show us that January had a sea surface temperature on average of 20 degrees Celsius, which broke a record for the month. But then you go a couple of days into February, and we've already been warmer than that and broke the previous standing record that was set back in August.

Remember when we had that exceptional marine heat wave, and we were talking about all the coral bleaching events that were happening that was in the heart of the extreme heat season of summer? Well, our February sea surface temperatures have already been warmer than that and broken that record in February.

We know that warm ocean temperatures play a role in adding more moisture into the atmosphere and adding more moisture into atmospheric river events like the one that we saw unfold in California this past week. That event dropped a half a year's worth of rain over parts of L.A., triggering landslides in the Hollywood Hills, upwards of 400 landslides, destroying homes. Cars were stuck, just an incredible historic event for Southern California.

And then you go into Chile, where they've got extreme heat and drought that has fueled the worst wildfire that they've ever seen. Thousands of homes burned, over 100 people killed, and we also know that climate change makes drought conditions like this worse too.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NOBILO: Officials in Japan say a pod of orcas seen trapped by sea ice are believed to have escaped to safety. This drone footage from local wildlife organization PRO showed at least 10 killer whales struggling in the ice earlier this week.


But on Thursday, officials from one coastal town said the ice drift had loosened and there'd been no sightings of the whales in 24 hours. So that's very good news.

This stunning image of a young polar bear drifting off to sleep has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. The shot, titled Ice Bed, was taken by British photographer Nima Sarikhani. Nima captured the moment in Norway's Svalbard archipelago after a three-day search for polar bears. And it was selected from a shortlist of 25 images showcasing both beauty and the fragility of our planet.

I love that, it's so sweet.

As well as the winner, there are these four highly commended finalists. The competition is developed by London's Natural History Museum, where all five images will be on display until June 30th.

Still ahead, what pushed this 35-year-old song to the top of the iTunes charts?



NOBILO: Tiger Woods will make his PGA Tour season debut next week at the tournament he hosts, the Genesis Invitational in California. The 48-year-old announced his return on social media on Wednesday, writing he is excited to play.

The 15-time major champion's last official event on the PGA Tour was at the Masters last year, where he had to withdraw because of a foot injury. The Genesis Invitational tees off February 15th.


TRACY CHAPMAN, SINGER-SONGWRITER: You got a fast car I want a ticket to anywhere Maybe we make a deal Maybe together we can get somewhere Any place is better Starting from zero, got nothing to lose ...


NOBILO: Singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman is enjoying the ultimate Grammy bump. Her 1988 hit song, Fast Car, and her debut album are both number one on the iTunes charts. Chapman performed on Sunday at the Grammy Awards with country star Luke Combs. His remake of Fast Car was one of the biggest hits of last year. Chapman won a Best New Artist Grammy 35 years ago but stopped touring back in 2009.

That does it here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. "EARLY START" is next.