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Connect the World

One out of Four Tests Coming Back Positive in South Africa; African Nations Struggle to get Vaccine into Arms; Indian Defense Chief Killed in Helicopter Crash; Yemen Conflict Has Caused Widespread Famine, Suffering; Biden: Warned Putin of "Severe Consequences" if he Attacks Ukraine; UK PM Apologizes for Video Showing Staff Joking Over Alleged Downing Street Christmas Party During Lockdown. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN, Atlanta. This is "Connector the World".

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade in for Becky Anderson. Welcome to "Connect the World". Good to have you with us.

Well, since the Omicron Coronavirus variant was discovered almost two weeks ago, researchers have been racing to find out how well our existing

vaccines work against it? Well, today we may be getting some answers from some preliminary data and the news thankfully is mostly positive.

The preliminary studies show two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may not provide sufficient protection, but they do protect against severe

disease and a third booster dose will help to significantly ward off any infection.

Well, meanwhile BioNTech says it's now working on a Coronavirus vaccine specifically for the Omicron variant. If needed, it says it could reproduce

several million doses starting in March. Researchers in South Africa are coming up with similar findings as Pfizer. CNN's David McKenzie is there in

Johannesburg. And David, take us through the data from this preliminary report.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the South African side, Lynda, it's still early days. It's a report that hasn't been vetted yet, but it

does indicate the scientists say good news, as you said Lynda.

They say they were worried that given the sheer number of mutations of the Omicron variant that they could have been full evasion of the vaccines,

meaning that any previous immunity, either through prior infection or from a vaccine could be evaded.

But that hasn't been the case in these early lab studies. They have shown that even just two doses of the Pfizer vaccine other vaccines haven't been

studied yet does show some level of evasion, even if it's dropped off from the original strain of the virus.

And they said that prior infection plus vaccine should be more robust and the Pfizer ahead and a short time ago, the BioNTech CEO saying that three

shots of Pfizer certainly would have a very robust immune response.

Just a short time ago, the South African regulator has approved the use of booster shots here in South Africa. There are many places of course around

the world where even an initial shot is still very hard to come by. And it does seem like the push to get vaccinations across the world needs to be

far greater. But at this stage, it is good news that this variant is possibly not as scary as we first thought.

KINKADE: Yes, certainly some good news and as you say, still quite preliminary this data. In terms of the situation in cases raising this

fourth wave in South Africa what's the situation right now?

MCKENZIE: Well, this would be the known epicenter of Omicron variant. Of course, there might be places where they don't do sufficient sequencing to

actually know what is happening. But what you're seeing is a very fast rise in cases we certainly in the fifth wave here in South Africa.

But it hasn't necessarily been followed at this stage by a significant rise in deaths. There is normally a lag between the two. But what doctors

ambulance workers, EMS professionals here have been telling me for the past few days at this stage, they are not seeing a rise in severe cases and

deaths compared to what they saw in previous waves, very early still to definitively say one way or the other at this point.

But there is certainly anecdotal evidence that those certainly who have been vaccinated are getting good outcomes against this variant. In the next

few weeks it could see if this is sustained, a pretty clear evidence that this is less severe, but we're just not there yet. And we don't want to

have false hope, as we've known through this pandemic Lynda.

KINKADE: Exactly. All right, David McKenzie, we will stay on this story. Thanks for joining us from Johannesburg. Well, I want to bring in Dr.

Michelle Groome who Heads the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases.


KINKADE: She joins us now live. Good to have you with us, doctor.


KINKADE: So I was just speaking to David there about the preliminary data we're seeing from South Africa. Essentially, take us through what

scientists did, to look at how the variant responded in, in blood that had been that had had the vaccine and had the antibodies verse blood?

DR. GROOME: OK. So I think what we've had a look at scientists in South Africa was really having a look. We've been only been looking at the

responses to the Pfizer vaccine, and in those that had previous re-infect - had previous infection.

And so it did show that when we were looking at the serum, that there was a drop off in the neutralization teeters with the Omicron variant but I

think, as the previous interview said, I think this has really been much less than we had expected with the level of mutations that were present in

the Omicron variant.

And so the results, very early results, quite a small cohort and but I think those with very high Titus did show very good activity, and they

retain the neutralization activity, and it didn't evade the immune system completely. And also, just to note, this is just focusing on antibodies.

And so we would still be awaiting data on the other types of immune responses like the T-Cells. But at this stage, I think encouraging that it

wasn't, you know, the neutralization drop off wasn't as bad as we had expected.

KINKADE: And it certainly seems to mirror some of the data we're seeing from Pfizer, which also makes a case for that added immunity for a booster


DR. GROOME: Yes, so definitely. So I think Pfizer did release the some of the preliminary analyses in terms of the three doses, which provided very

good protection, and likely that the two doses would still protect against severe disease. And so in South Africa, regulatory authority has just

approved the addition of a booster dose.

And so I think that's really encouraging in terms of boosting, especially those at highest risk, which is our elderly population, just to give them

that added protection.

KINKADE: As South Africa is experiencing this exponential increase in infections, especially over the last two weeks. Just explain what you're

seeing how concerned are you?

DR. GROOME: Yes. So I think initially, we did see this really rapid rise and exponential increase. But I think it's been quite encouraging. That

seems to be stabilizing in the Gauteng Province, which was really the first province to show these increases, you know, the numbers that we're seeing

today, or, you know, very much in line with what we saw towards the end of last week.

And so some early signs that we may you know that that rapid increase, it is abating slightly, and which is encouraging. We're still monitoring in

terms of hospitalizations. There have been small increases in hospitalizations in line with the case numbers, and still too early to

definitively say.

But I think early indications that these - there's a larger proportion of mild cases and compared to more severe cases in our previous waves, and

net, the majority of these are occurring in unvaccinated people.

KINKADE: So it is positive to hear at this early stage that it seems that the Omicron variant leads to more mild cases. But from what we understand

so far, it seems to be more contagious than other variants. With populations that have low vaccination rates talk to us about the risk of

this virus mutating further and will we potentially get to a point where the current vaccines won't work at all?

DR. GROOME: Look, I really think South Africa is lagging a bit behind in terms of our vaccine coverage. I think we vaccinate to just over 40 percent

of our population with at least a single dose and good coverage in our elderly population. But I think what we the benefit that we do have is that

our - prevalence studies show a very high - prevalence.

And so I think the number of reported cases is really likely to be you know, at least 10 times more than those that have actually have laboratory

confirmed COVID infection. And so really, I think we've got the benefits of that underlying - prevalence as well, which I think is really standing us

in good state.

And if this is indeed you know going to boost a lot of those that have already had infection and those that have been vaccinated, I think will

really stand us in good state going forward in containing this pandemic.


KINKADE: And just finally Dr. Groome what is your message to people still hesitant to get the vaccine?

DR. GROOME: So I think we are having first hand proof here that, you know, those that are vaccinated are having less severe disease. And I think, you

know, this is really just to encourage those. We are seeing store higher proportion of infections and hospitalizations in our younger population,

which is the population group which has the lowest vaccine coverage.

And really just to encourage those that haven't yet vaccinated to vaccinate to protect both themselves and those around them as I think the data you

know, will be coming out in the coming weeks that is really just going to show how effective these vaccines really are.

KINKADE: All right, Dr. Michelle Groome, good to get your perspective from South Africa. Thanks so much for your time today.

DR. GROOME: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, COVID is prompting an apology and an investigation in the UK. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is saying he's sorry for any

offence caused by a controversial leaked video. Now the footage shows Downing Street Senior Staff joking about an apparent Christmas party held

during last year's COVID lockdown take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just an important question there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night? Do you recognize it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the Prime Minister condemn having a Christmas Party?

STRATTON: What's the answer?


STRATTON: Cheese mine all right. This is recording. This fictional party was a business meeting. It was not socially disturbed.


KINKADE: Well, news just into us Allegra Stratton the woman you saw just speaking in that video has now resigned a short time ago. Mr. Johnson said

he had been repeatedly assured that there was no party and it no COVID rules were broken. Well, the Prime Minister has now launched an


The news of the apparent party has caused outrage across the country especially among those who lost loved ones and were forced to abandon their

Christmas plans last year. And today marks a milestone for the UK it is exactly one year since it deployed the world's first approved COVID-19


But that seems to be getting lost in the current battle at number 10. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is live for us from Downing Street. Certainly this is

overshadowing that anniversary Salma an absolute fiasco and already we're seeing the first head to roll?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: This is absolutely captured the country Lynda, millions of people have seen that video that's played out and the

fallout continues as you reported. Allegra Stratton the woman seen in that video, who was then Press Secretary, has now resigned from government.

And you can expect that the fallout will continue because there's been reports since last week in the press here of a Christmas party held at

Downing Street in that building just behind me here hosted by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister repeatedly, repeatedly denied these allegations. But of course the final nail in the coffin is that video you played out obtained

by our affiliate ITV, which reports to show the senior staff members mocking sarcastically laughing and joking about an alleged Christmas party

at Downing Street, allegedly on December 18th.

So you can bet when the Prime Minister walked into parliament today for his weekly Prime Minister's questions. It was the first thing he addresses take

a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: May I begin by saying that I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing number 10

staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures. And I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that the people who have been setting the

rules have not been following the rules.

Mr. Speaker, because I was also furious to see that clip and Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I apologize unreservedly for the offense that it has caused up

and down the country. And I apologize for the impression that it gives. But I repeat Mr. Speaker that I have been repeatedly assured since these

allegations emerged that there was no party and that and that no COVID rules were broken.


ABDELAZIZ: Now you hear the Prime Minister there again denying any wrongdoing. He did promise an investigation a thorough investigation to get

to the bottom of that video that we played out earlier for our viewers. But I can tell you, Lynda in the Court of Public Opinion, this Prime Minister

has very likely all-ready lost.

I'll give you a sample. There was a small opinion poll taken of about 1000 adults just after this incident and 54 percent of them 54 percent in this

small poll said that the Prime Minister should resign in office.


ABDELAZIZ: So there's a few questions being asked but I want to start by painting you a picture of what was going on during that period in time

during that December 18th of last year, so that you get an understanding of the frustration people have.

On December 18th this country was under tier three rules that meant no mixing of households indoors, there was a variant, that variant that was

running through this country literally like wildfire. ICUs were being overwhelmed.

Hundreds of people were dying of COVID-19 a day. And a day after that incident the alleged incident rather on December 19th, the Prime Minister

took to the airwaves here and essentially canceled Christmas. He told people we cannot we must sacrifice Christmas this year if we are to see our

loved ones safe.

And well next year. I'm paraphrasing but that was the message to this country. And everyone in this country Lynda remembers that moment when they

had to pick up the phone cancel their Christmas plans tell their parents that they're going to be alone during the holiday season.

And that's not even including how bereaved families have reacted to this Lynda, of course heartbroken devastated a sense that this government is

careless and selfish.

KINKADE: And of course, this comes - this scandal as we are seeing COVID cases increase in the UK. Thanks for that Omicron variant. We will stay on

this story. We've got much more in the program on this. Salma Abdelaziz outside 10 Downing we'll leave it there for now. Thank you.

Well, India is mourning its Defense Chief following a tragic accident. We're going to have a live report from the Indian Capital. Also

Afghanistan's economy on the brink of famine, aid is needed desperately. One European country is making its voice heard.


KINKADE: Welcome back, India's Top Military Chief has been killed in a helicopter crash. General Bipin Rawat is one of 14 people on board an

Indian Air Force helicopter that went down in the Southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu.

His wife was also on board and died there was only one survivor who's currently being treated in hospital. Well, CNN's Vedika Sud joins us now

from a New Delhi. Just explain for us if you know how this crash may have occurred, what can you tell us about it?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: A tragic incident indeed Lynda. What we do know at this point in time is that the Indian Air Force has administered

approved into the incident they cannot ascertain yet what really happened at the crash site. That's because it's been only 10 hours since this tragic

incident took place.

So we'll have to wait and watch and see what the report says in the coming days. But here's what we do know. Chief of Defense Staff and India's Top

Military Official General Bipin Rawat was on a military transport chopper along with his wife and 12 others. Only one person has survived that crash

and is currently being treated in a hospital in Southern Indiana. It's a Military Hospital he's been treated at.


SUD: General Rawat was on his way to visit Defense Service College where he was to meet a few people and perhaps even deliver a lecture but those are

not substantiated reports yet, but we do know he was visiting that venue when the crash took place.

We do know that a lot of people were quite surprised at this tragic incident. Let me just quickly tell you more about the General. He is

India's top most General rather was and he is the man behind most of the decisions taken when it comes to military decisions.

He is the Principal Advisor to the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. Earlier today, both the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and the Chief of Army Staff

was seen at his residence in India's capital, they had gone to offer their condolences.

It was only later in the day that the Indian Air Force put out a statement confirming his death along with his wife and 11 others. So that's what we

know as of now. Details of his funeral are yet to be ascertained and when the body will be brought back to the national capitol, Lynda.

KINKADE: And of course, we're already hearing from the Prime Minister among those paying tribute to the Chief of Defense. What is he saying?

SUD: While the Prime Minister has tweeted it was a series of tweets, I have some of the exurbs here with me. He said that General Rawat's insights and

perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. He called him an outstanding officer.

Also, the Indian Army has put out a statement post the demise and the announcement of the death of General Bipin Rawat; they have called him a

visionary who was essential in integrating the try services of India. That was his primary job to make sure that the integration of the Indian Navy,

the Air Force and the army takes place. And he had contributed a lot in terms of getting those three together.

So yes, a lot of politicians have been tweeting and reacting everyone shocked, hurt and are mourning the loss of General Bipin Rawat. Lynda.

KINKADE: A tragic accident. Vedika Sud in New Delhi, good to have you with us thank you. Well, Afghanistan's economy already struggling has been on

its knees since the Taliban seized power.

The country faced a stark drop in international aid in the World Bank froze over one and a half billion dollars earmarked for reconstruction. Well, now

Norway's asking donors to instead transfer $280 million from frozen World Bank funds to U.N. organizations.

It's hoped that with this approach, cash should be delivered faster to Afghans who are on the edge of famine. Well, my next guest is the U.N.

Development Program Administrator Achim Steiner. He told Reuters the volume of finance that needs to be mobilized by Afghanistan is far larger than

anything the financial system could cope with right now.

He added so we are faced with an enormous constraint. Achim Steiner joins me now from New York. Mr. Steiner, good to have you with us, just explain

the financial constraints faced --facing Afghans right now.

ACHIM STEINER, U.N. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME ADMINISTRATOR: Hello, Lynda. And thank you for having me on your program. I think as you just pointed out,

and as the news over the last few weeks have shown what we are witnessing in Afghanistan at this very moment is not only a political rupture and


We're also seeing an economic collapse that is almost without precedent in terms of the period of time, GDP is likely to contract by 1/5 this year,

could be 30 percent next year. The financial and banking system has virtually collapsed the ability of people to be paid. The ability of

government to pay civil servants, but also in critical sectors such as health clinics and schools is actually not functioning anymore.

We are witnessing an economic implosion that has created both extraordinary humanitarian needs, which is where the United Nations with its humanitarian

system and Response Plan has stepped up.

But as we also are realizing there are close to 40 million Afghans, the ability to save lives, but also to save livelihoods, is now critically

dependent on being able to bring some form of cash to flow in the economy again, and particularly to stabilize the people's economy, the incomes that

people earn to be able to stay on their land in their villages.

And that is the great challenge of the moment and one that international community is struggling with right now.

KINKADE: So we know that the World Bank have frozen these funds back in August, over concerns of what the Taliban how the Taliban would run this

country after they seized power. Why does the UN fail? It's more capable of distributing these funds.

STEINER: Well, first of all, the World Bank and the United Nations all work under the same sanctions regime they work under the same reality right now

which is that the international community has not recognized a new government, new authorities. We are working with de facto authorities.


STEINER: This is a modus operandi that happens in many country contexts where a crisis breaks out. Wherever the United Nations led by the Secretary

General's commitment has always said that it will stay and deliver because at this critical moment, it is a bridge for the international community to

first of all, assist the people of Afghanistan who are faced with an unprecedented economic collapse.

And clearly the United Nations through its humanitarian response plans is able to first of all deliver urgent food and also medicines into the

country. This is complying with international sanctions that have been issued.

But it is also at the same time, a moment in which we need to recognize that we cannot feed 40 million Afghans by flying food in alone, we need to

find ways in which we can stabilize the local economy.

And clearly the international community has frozen billions of dollars, first of all, in terms of - that was already allocated to Afghanistan, for

obvious reasons, but also assets that belong to Afghanistan. So the economy in one form or another needs to have cash to return in order for people to

be able to run businesses to be able to survive.

And this is the moment in which I think countries and the international communities through the World Bank through the United Nations system are

looking for ways in the context of yet not having a recognized government in place.

So there is a great deal of step by step exploration. But the situation clearly demands that we cannot leave Afghanistan and is 40 million people

in this economic collapse, because it will have consequences well beyond the fate of Afghans, but also neighboring countries and the world community

at large.

KINKADE: Yes, certainly massive challenges. How do we ensure that the Taliban don't capitalize on this? What's the risk that this these funds

these resources don't go to the people who need it most?

STEINER: Well, first of all the United Nations through its humanitarian response, but also for example, the emergency program on basic human needs

that UNDP is currently standing up is implemented in a direct implementation mode.

That means humanitarians are able to bring in directly the goods and support that is needed through the World Food Program, UNICEF, UNHCR. But

we are also able in UNDP to work directly with NGOs with local contractors. And the central ministries, the central government essentially tolerates an

implementation approach that will preclude routing funding through central government institutions.

And that is the, let's say, vacuum in which we are finding ways in which to support the people's economy of Afghanistan, for example, through the

program that UNDP with many other agencies is trying to implement right now.

Cash for Work programs, the ability to support micro enterprises, 80 percent of which are women live; these are people who will either have

something to eat and to buy food with or nothing.

And therefore, the next few months are extremely critical, because it is millions of people who either will have no economy to rely on, or something

to survive the winter, and then look towards an international negotiation between the international community and the de facto authorities on the

longer term future.

KINKADE: Just briefly, I want to turn our attention to Yemen, because you released a report last month, which is pretty devastating a reading of

377,000 deaths by the end of the year 20 million living on less than $1.90 a day, what solutions is your organization offering up to help them?

STEINER: Well, analogous to Afghanistan, in every crisis context, what both the people of the country face are a collapse of the economy. And what we

have seen also in Yemen over this six yearlong conflict now that 80 percent of the population now depends on humanitarian assistance.

12.1 million people are in acute need of food and malnutrition. And literally famine is a very real prospect for millions of people. Again, the

international community obviously, in situations like these in protracted conflicts, rightly asked the question, what can we do?

Well, the first thing is saving lives must be a commitment that they honor. This is human solidarity is the principle on which also the United Nations

is heavily engaged in Yemen. But also and we have been doing this through the United Nations Development Program.

How do we stabilize livelihoods, a whole generation of young people without skills, the institution's collapsing means that Yemen's protracted crisis

faith may even extend well beyond the actual conflict?

And there is another very depressing fact that in the recent report that UNDP published is that more people are already dying now from the indirect

effects of this conflict, namely, hunger, famine and preventable diseases than actually being killed on the so called frontlines of the conflict. And

this again points to the urgency of being able despite the complexity of the situation and the contradictory reality.


STEINER: And we cannot turn our backs on these countries on the people of these nations because in the end, this is a conflict that will begin to

have consequences well beyond the borders of the country.

KINKADE: Yes, huge challenges. Achim Steiner from the U.N. De-Pay. Good to have you with us. Thanks for your time today.

STEINER: Thank you, Lynda.

KINKADE: Well, still ahead President Biden issues a serious warning to Vladimir Putin about Russian aggression with Ukraine will it make a

difference and athletes from the U.S. the UK and Australia getting ready for the Winter Olympics, but officials from those countries staying home.

What China has to say about the growing diplomatic boycott?


KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade; you're watching "Connect the World". Well, the UK and Australia have joined a political boycott at the

Beijing Winter Olympics of China's human rights record.

Today Prime Minister Boris Johnson said no government ministers from the UK will attend. And Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country

would follow the United States in doing the same.

China has criticized the three countries for politicizing the games. Well, CNN's Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson joins us live from

Hong Kong and Ivan more countries now announcing his diplomatic boycott. And China is not happy about it.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. It's watching a growing movement towards diplomatic boycott of its games and

it's very unhappy with it. Let's take a listen to the Australian Prime Minister and his announcement earlier today that Australia would join the

U.S. in this measure.



SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the many other issues that Australia has consistently raised.

We have been very pleased and very happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues.

And there's been no obstacle to that occurring on our side. But the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet

about these issues. So it is not surprising, therefore, that Australian government officials would therefore not be going to China for those games.

- Athletes will though.


WATSON: And here's a taste of how Chinese government officials have responded to the diplomatic boycott.


ZHAO LIJIAN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY: As we stated on various occasions, it is the athletes instead of politicians clamoring for

boycott, kind of selfish political gains that should be in the spotlight. In fact, no one would care whether these people come or not, and it has no

impact whatsoever on the Olympics to be successfully held by Beijing.


WATSON: Lynda, one of the Chinese rebuttals basically boils down to well, we didn't invite these official delegations to come in the first place.

There have also been threats of some kind of countermeasures, and we're not sure what those will be.

Los Angeles is due to host the Summer Olympics in 2028. Unclear whether or not the Chinese government would wait six years to retaliate and announced

its own diplomatic boycott.

And as you and I discussed this in the last hour, it's one thing for China to reject governments that criticize its human rights abuses. It can

control that narrative within China's borders with very strict censorship of the internet and of the media, and no tolerance for basically any kind

of protests on the streets.

It is another thing however, if athletes who come to Beijing decide to speak out about some of these very human rights issues that the Chinese

government does not like to discuss, and consistently denies that any abuses whatsoever do take place there. Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, no doubt, Ivan that would make authorities in China quite nervous. But I do want to ask you about this alliance between Australia and

the U.S. We have seen certainly a lot of alignment when it comes to countering China and a lot of investment.

WATSON: Yes, a couple of months ago, the U.S. the UK and Australia announced a defense agreement which would involve producing and selling

nuclear submarines to Australia, which greatly angered China, not to mention France, which had had its own contract to sell submarines to


Australia's relations with Beijing have deteriorated dramatically over the last couple of years, even though historically, the two countries have been

close economic. They've had close economic ties and our big trading partners. And as that relationship has deteriorated, it does look like

Canberra is looking more and more closely to Washington to counterbalance China's economic and increasing military strength.

KINKADE: Right, Ivan Watson, certainly no doubt we will be speaking about this much more in the coming weeks. Thanks so much, Ivan Watson there in

Hong Kong. Well, Russia says the NATO blog has an unfriendly disposition towards Moscow is after the U.S. President Joe Biden voice deep concerns

over the military buildup at the Russian border with Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin today said Russia does not seek confrontations with anyone. The Kremlin has demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand

further eastward. Sources say the two hour video call with President Putin was tense at times. President Biden has just spoken about that call. Take a



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Really, I was very straightforward. There were no mince words. It was polite, but I made it

very clear, different facts. He invades Ukraine. There will be severe consequences, severe consequences, economic consequences like non he's ever

seen, forever had been seen in terms of ease and flow.

He knows his immediate response was he understood that and I indicated I knew he would respond. But beyond that, if in fact, we would probably also

be required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries to reassure particularly those in the Eastern Front.

In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide the defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well. The good news is the good news. The

positive news is that thus far our teams have been in constant contact.


BIDEN: We hope by Friday, we're going to be able to say - having meetings at a higher level, not just with us, but what's at least four of our major

NATO allies, and Russia to discuss the future of Russia's concerns relative to NATO writ large and whether or not you've worked out any accommodations,

as it relates to bringing down the temperature along the Eastern Front.


KINKADE: Well, White House correspondent John Harwood joins us now live from outside the White House. And certainly after that two hour video call

a lot was discussed. John, what more did President Biden have to say?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the most consequential thing was what he said at the end of the clip that you just

played, there's been a lot of attention, of course, to the notion that Vladimir Putin is massing troops on three sides of Ukraine could have up

to, according to U.S. Intelligence 175,000, by January, but there's been less discussion about how that could be avoided.

President Biden said there'd be severe economic consequences. They're talking about unplugging Russia from the international financial system.

But the President also discussed the diplomatic off ramp with Putin ways of reassuring Russia that would deter an invasion that would not require the

economic consequences.

And that's what he alluded to at the end of that clip that is talks between U.S. officials, diplomats, and those from Russia and NATO allies. And you

know, obviously Russia has violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the past they did in 2014.

They're prepared to do it again. But one of their arguments is that the reason for their actions that the motivation for their actions is that they

feel insecure about the eastward expansion of NATO the deployment of military equipment within Ukraine that they feel as a threat to them. So

what Biden mentioned was lowering the temperature calming some of those concerns within Russia, that they're under threat.

And if that can be done if that initiative can succeed that might allow the world to avert the unhappy prospect of either war, outright war in Ukraine

between Russian forces and Ukrainian forces. Or an invasion, coupled with very severe economic sanctions that would affect not only Russia but the

countries in Europe that Russia likes to do business with.

KINKADE: Alright, John Howard from outside the White House. Good to have you with us. Thanks so much. Well, we are going to take a quick break,

we'll have much more of "Connect the World" in just a moment, stay with us.



KINKADE: Now to "Call to Earth" where we are celebrating a week of programming dedicated to the theme re-wild and restore. Today we have a

story from Scotland about a distillery that has gone beyond making whiskey and taking the plunge into marine conservation.


BILL SANDERSON, PROFESSOR OF MARINE BIODIVERSITY (voice over): Restoring oyster beds is profound as restoring ancient forests, I believe. It would

almost certainly have the same kind of profound effects that many of these other large scale re-wilding projects are having on the land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the door knock first, in the Highlands of Scotland. It used to be teeming with European oysters, a slow growing

cousin of the Pacific oysters commonly found in restaurants. Over 100 years ago, with the advent of industrial fishing, the European oyster is found

here with fished to extinction.

SANDERSON (on camera): We think of oysters now as a kind of a luxury item. And that's partly because they're rarity. But back in the day, they were

working man's food, there were fast food, there was something you would - out your meaty recipes with to make them go further.

They were so plentiful that they were consumed in their millions. But by the late 1800s, nearly all those beds were completely fished out and the

dwindling stocks that were left there perished in the subsequent 10 or 20 years or so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In recent years, the European oyster has made a comeback through a surprising partnership between scientists and a whisky

maker. The Glenmorangie Distillery has been on the banks of the Dornoch Firth for over 170 years.

SANDERSON (voice over): This project was initiated really over a coffee with some of the directors from Glenmorangie, they were expanding their

warehouses, the business is booming. And then they wanted to know how to reduce the environmental footprint and improve their surroundings.

EDDIE THOM, DISTILLERY MANAGER, GLENMORANGIE: The area of interest is very, very vulnerable. Its sports meters, so we need to make sure that we don't

damage the nature around us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The initial phase of the Dornoch environmental enhancement project so 20,000 European oysters successfully planted in the

Dornoch Firth, the aim is to reach a self-sustaining population of 4 million, one benefit of the oyster communities is that they build habitats.

SANDERSON (on camera): Oysters create the structure on the seabed create all the nooks and crannies for the things to live in amongst, we're

starting to see increased numbers of certain fish species and certain crab species associated with these habitats.

And they do that amazing filtration work which puts a lot of the energy from the plankton onto the seabed. And that draws a lot of other species


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's this filtration ability that was particularly interesting to the distillery. As part of the whiskey making process,

organic waste is discharged into the river Firth, such as barley from the fermentation process. Oysters are a natural filter for this.

THOM: With a native European oyster to be done in place that changes back the entire ecosystem back the way it was before we started.

SANDERSON (on camera): Every time we go down, it's always a bit of an anxious moment. For me, I feel like an expectant father. Every year, I come

back with a grin on my face because you know the oysters getting bigger and bigger. And there's more and more species associated with them.

Oyster beds and seagrass beds, you know are really important to the whole ecology but also climate mitigation. So it's really rewarding to see that

habitat start to develop.


KINKADE: And we will continue showcasing inspirational environmental stories like this as part of the initiative at CNN. Let us know what you're

doing to answer the call with a #calltoearth.



KINKADE: Well, the British government advisor at the center of a controversial leaked video has resigned. Allegra Stratton is apologizing

and now stepping down after footage showed her joking with other Downing Street senior staff about an apparent Christmas party Whoa during last

year's COVID lockdown. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is saying he's sorry for any offence caused by that leaked video.

Mr. Johnson told parliament earlier in the day that he had been assured repeatedly that there was no party and that the COVID rules had not been

broken when use of the apparent party has caused outrage across the country, especially among those who lost loved ones and were forced to

abandon their Christmas plans last year.

A new snap poll shows a majority of British adults say Boris Johnson should resign. Well Dr. Saleyha Ahsan practices emergency medicine and her father

contracted COVID on the same day of that controversial gathering. He later died. She joins us now from London. Dr. Saleyha Ahsan, good to have you

with us. I'm sorry, it's under these circumstances.

Just explain what is going through your mind as you hear as you saw that video of staffers, senior staffers in the government joking about an

apparent Christmas party last year and what you were dealing with at the time?

DR. SALEYHA AHSAN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE DOCTOR: So on the 18th of December last year, I still remember how my legs became like jelly when I got the

news that my father was unwell with the symptoms that he had.

Up until that moment, I'd been actually working in intensive care looking after critically ill patients with COVID. I knew what it was knew; how it

attacks people, know how it kills people. I just I was working in a different part of the country.

I just was praying against, you know, just absolutely praying that this was not COVID. But I knew in my heart - most possibly was by the symptoms. By

the time I got home, it was the 22nd of December, which is also my birthday. He was escalated and put into a room where he had to have the

CPAP that tight fitting mask on his face.

So, on the 18th whilst they were having their secret Santa and their cheese and wine, and not socially distancing at number 10, I was having possibly

one of the worst days of my life, coming to terms with the fact that my father has most probably got COVID and feeling sick to my stomach.

So how do I feel that so last night, as I saw the news clip, I have to thank Allegra Stratton and those people in that room for bringing back all

the flashbacks that I put to bed earlier this year with a lot of help, a lot of support trying to recover from what I've been through and what my

family have been through and what many people have been through over 160,000 of us actually families in the UK.

So right now, the impact that it had on me is that I have had all of that brought back to me. It's triggered my anxiety all over again and my upset.

They re-traumatized me actually.


KINKADE: I'm so sorry. And as you say, 160,000 families, like you probably dealing with this, again, shaking their head in anger that the staffers

could be just joking about having this Christmas party, they just completely out of touch with reality.

AHSAN: I think you're right there. I think you're right there. But you know, I think that's being gentle on them. I think that, you know, what

kind of human being can think that having that kind of gathering the first place and then essentially to mock the rest of the country.

And that's, that's how it felt when I watched that press conference, and they were rather jovial and joking and laughing about it. I just thought

and, you know, if you take yourself back to that time, the country was gripped in fear.

People were in you know, what, unable to see their loved ones. Unable to say goodbye, I was lucky, I was fortunate that I was actually able to be

with my father because my father has a career and I was allowed to be his designated career inside the hospital. But frankly, I and I got to see an

insight into what pressures that that hospital was going through. It was like a war zone and I am a doctor that has worked in conflict zones.

So I thought I could sense that same degree of anxiety of tension of you know, of uncertainty of desperation that I have felt operating in hostile

settings. It was here was happening in my own home country.

So if you can imagine that there was that sense of fear going around the country. And yet at number 10 the seat of power, where all the decisions

were coming out of they were having a merry old time, Jollying away with cheese and wine and opening their presence.

And you know this was a planned gathering because you've got to plan what you're going to get a Secret Santa. I think it is appalling. I can't even

articulate how appalling this is. What I am hoping for is accountability. I and myself and my family have to find another way to now recover. We were

already anxious because we'd hit December. December--

KINKADE: Yes, coming back to that one year, Dr. Saleyha Ahsan, I'm so sorry if you're lost, so sorry that this is all coming back again as a result of

this. This video completely shows people out of touch with what's going on. Thank you so much for your time and we hope we can speak to you again soon.

Thank you.

AHSAN: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, we have to leave it there for now. That was "Connect the World". I am Lynda Kinkade. We will be covering your story much more next

hour. "One World" with Zain Asher is next.