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Connect the World

Investigation of Three Alleged COVID Relief-Breaking Parties as Pressure Grows on British Prime Minister; W.H.O. Chief Scientist Speaks out Against Booster Campaigns; France will not Join Growing Diplomatic Boycott; U.N.: Afghanistan Facing Unprecedented Hunger; Turkish President Asks for Trust as Lira Weakens Again; Australian Lawmakers Label News Corp a "Troubling Monopoly". Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 09, 2021 - 11:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: --parties of Christmas pass, a trio of COVID rule-breaking gatherings allegedly held lost Christmas across

the UK government during lockdown. That's being investigated as pressure grows on the Prime Minister.

CNN understands that Mr. Johnson himself gave an impromptu speech at one of them, and an alleged December 18 Party is already sending shockwaves

through Downing Street along with outrage across the country.

As the backlash intensifies, the Prime Minister quickly rolled out what he's calling plan B, a tightening of pandemic rules to curb the spread of

the overcrowded variant. He's advising people in England to work from home, if possible, is also expanding mask wearing and mandating the use of

vaccine passports in large venues.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Let's do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones this winter, and to reduce the

pressures on our NHS. As we learn more, so we will be guided by the hard medical data around four key criteria, the efficacy of our vaccines and our

boosters, the severity of Omicron, the speed of its spread and the rate of hospitalizations.


FOSTER: The timing of this circle plan B is sensitive. Some critics in Boris Johnson's own Conservative Party claim he's using it as a way to

distract and deflect from all the controversy. CNN's Nina dos Santos is at Downing Street for us.

The irony perhaps of this investigation is that it does actually extend the story doesn't it means it's not going to go away until we got the result.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. We know that three investigations are taking place, as per today from the Cabinet Office,

which is essentially the beating heart of the government and the man who's been elected to look into all of that as the most senior civil servant in

the UK.

Now, these three events that they're looking into appear to have happened, two of them here at Downing Street, the Prime Minister's own official

residence, where of course all of his offices are sometime between November and December this time last year. There's also another event that they're

looking into that appears to have taken place inside the Department of Education.

Now, what's important about all of this is that even though this was a year ago, it was at a time when London and this part of the country was under

tier three restrictions, meaning that effectively it was locked down and Christmas parties were banned.

And the Prime Minister insists and did so again earlier today in the House of Commons that he knows of no rule breaking that took place. But one of

his senior aides still had to make a tearful resignation yesterday evening, after she was caught seemingly in an unguarded remark. I went to rehearsing

for a media briefing in Downing Street, making light of these rules and this alleged Christmas party that might or might not have taken place here

a year or so ago.

And a lot of this is creating confusion many people say in the UK as to whether or not they should or shouldn't have Christmas parties. And the

backdrop to all of this, as you pointed out is this tightening of the restrictions, which ironically, Max means that as of Monday next week,

people won't be able to go to the office.

But they might still be able to have a legitimate Christmas party with their colleagues or the government is still explaining whether or not it

had Christmas parties here this time last year. Max.

FOSTER: Opposition members of parliament calling for his resignation, they've done that before it doesn't really go anywhere. It does it as long

as he has the support those backbenchers but those back benches are only going to give him the support as long as he's popular. How's it looking for


SANTOS: Well, recent polls indicate that he's losing some of that popularity even amongst some of the people who voted for him and if you

listen to some of the statements made in the House of Commons earlier today from some of the backbench MPs who've been becoming increasingly

disgruntled with the leader of their party, Boris Johnson.

You can hear that they're starting to speak up on behalf of their constituents who extremely irate about what may or may not have happened

this time last year at some of these alleged Christmas parties or gatherings.

What they want is answers to this. They want the Prime Minister to be very, very clear about what happened. The other thing that they also want is to

know whether or not he really does have a plan for whether or not Christmas will be canceled this time this year, because as we know, he's moved to

this plan B.

But yesterday evening, I was spending some time filming in the hospitality sector, some Christmas parties and there's still huge confusion here about

what is or isn't allowed what may or may not come.

And remember today is a day when the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Symonds welcomed their second child the birth of a daughter. None of that

has taken the issue of the front pages. This story that has now been called party gate is starting to affect the Prime Minister's popularity, Max.

FOSTER: Congratulations for their personal use at least Nina in Downing Street. Thank you very much indeed. Some encouraging use on the vaccine

front, meanwhile to Israeli studies, find booster doses of Pfizer's COVID vaccine, reduce infections and deaths by 90 percent or more.

It's one of several new pieces of evidence that they say yes, boosters are still protected even against new variants. However, there are still so many

people around the world still in need of a first shot. Now my next guest insists that "wholesale boosting is not the solution right now and that it

is the primary cause of vaccination that is going to protect against severe disease in death".


FOSTER: Those words from the World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, she joins me now from Geneva, thank you so much for

joining us. I speak to you from London. There are restrictions here coming in.

They're not as severe as they are in other parts of Europe. And that's because the government says that the best line is events for Brits here is

the booster program. What do you make of that?

DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, CHIEF SCIENTIST, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Thank you very much for that question. At the W.H.O of course, you know, we have

to take a global view. And then countries put in place the policies and implement them, depending on their local context.

When we take a global view, it's clear that we still have about half the world that has not received the primary cause of vaccination, including the

fact that only one in four healthcare workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated.

And there are plenty of vulnerable people out there that still need to get their first and their second shots. Now, data from country after country,

including the U.S., the UK, Israel, Chile, et cetera show that the people who are in hospital now in especially in critical care, and those who are

dying are overwhelmingly the unvaccinated.

And while there is some evidence of waning of immunity, particularly after six months or so with many of the vaccines and particularly in the older

age groups, what is clear is that all of the vaccines continue to offer a high degree of protection against severe disease and death, even at six

months out.

And so you know, the view that we are taking is, that this stage of the pandemic, our goal is to prevent deaths as quickly as possible, we're still

seeing 50,000 deaths a week, this is not acceptable.

And as I said, 97 percent or so of those deaths are in the unvaccinated in countries across the world, not just in the low income countries. And so

that's why countries need to focus on getting those unvaccinated people to come in and get their shots.

Boosters, maybe for some selected, yes, the high risk groups, the immune- compromised, the very elderly, but also the other public health measures that you talked about not lock downs, we're not recommending lock downs.

It's certainly universal masking, paying attention to ventilation, making sure that we're not gathering in big groups, in indoor settings, all of the

things we know drive transmission up. I think, you know, that's, that's really going to have to be the focus for the coming weeks and months.

FOSTER: I mean, in very simple terms, new variants like Omicron are less likely, aren't they in future, if countries that aren't vaccinated get the

vaccine because these new variants are more likely to emerge out of communities where there's no vaccination?

DR. SWAMINATHAN: That's right. I mean, this was entirely predictable. We didn't know where and when and what type of variant would emerge. But as

long as you have, you know, surging infections, ongoing transmission, in some parts of the world, nobody is going to be safe, because the virus is

just looking for opportunities to mutate to evolve, and to become more transmissible.

Basically, the virus is constantly trying to make it more efficient. And that's what it's done now. It made itself even more efficient at

transmitting. And this is likely to continue to happen. This is not going to be the last variant we see.

And that's why, again, to come back to the question of what should we do with the vaccine supplies we have, the priority should be to vaccinate the

high risk vulnerable groups across the world in all countries before we start giving third and fourth shots to people who've already have their

primary course.

FOSTER: It must be very frustrating, then for you to see, you know, booster programs being ramped up because of a new variant which could have been,

you know, less likely to occur if vaccines have been given to the developing world and parts of Africa, for example.

I spoke in the last hour to the doctor who first notices the symptoms of Omicron in South Africa. Her view is that the symptoms aren't as bad as

people in the West, perhaps think they are and actually, the West is overreacting to Omicron. Is that your view as well?

DR. SWAMINATHAN: Well, the early signs and descriptions of cases from South Africa in particular, but also from other countries, do show that you know

most of the cases so far have been mild. We haven't had deaths reported but then you know that's usually the case at the beginning of every new wave

with a new variant.

So we need to be a little cautious before we conclude that this is a milder form of the virus. And even if it is, which we hope it is the fact that you

want to have very large numbers because it's so highly transmissible will still mean that people are going to get sick. So I think we still need to

go back to the basics.


DR. SWAMINATHAN: And the difference today is that we are in a different position. We have a lot of tools at disposal, we have diagnostics, we have

vaccines, we have therapeutics, we need to use them wisely and equitably.

And so, yes, we were not surprised, I think and I hope we've had many, many wake up calls and reminders. This is a fifth variant of concern that we've

seen. I do hope, at least now that countries will wake up to the reality that this pandemic is not going to end.

If we continue to focus our efforts within national boundaries, this has to be a global effort, there needs to be a global plan. And there needs to be

solidarity to achieve that plan.

FOSTER: Europe then an interesting example probably for you where you've got, you know, countries in Europe locking down looking to make vaccines

mandated, got a case in the UK where they're not locking down as much and they're not going to mandate vaccine.

You would have seen the backlash in Europe to lockdowns. Is that a concern for you that countries where there's a you know, there's a major crisis,

and they're calling for a lockdown that people don't respond to that rock lockdown and therefore the virus spreads again?

DR. SWAMINATHAN: Well, you know, we have to understand also that people, people have pandemic fatigue now everyone does, and patience is running

low. And moreover, people's lives and livelihoods have been impacted.

In some countries it's inconvenience, in other countries, it's a question of earning your daily bread. And therefore, you know, lockdowns are really

not a longer term and sustainable solution. And we have measures that work.

We don't need lockdowns anymore that was the initial reaction. So I think that, yes, I agree with you when you go to the doctor who said that people

are overreacting. And I don't think that at this stage of the pandemic, we need this kind of a panic button to be pressed.

You know, we've said all along, we need to continue to be cautious; we shouldn't lift all the restrictions because a pandemic is not over. Many

countries went ahead, you know, and thought they were back to normal just because they had enough supplies of vaccines.

And we've seen now that the virus is still out there. It's going after people are still susceptible. And so it's premature to think that you know

that some countries can actually come out of the pandemic, as we've been very rudely reminded.

So we need to go back to equity and putting these travel bans on the South African countries, some of which haven't had haven't even reported a single


Isn't doing anything to enhance, you know, the sense of global solidarity here, punishing people for being transparent, for having informed the world

actually about this variant because they have such fantastic genome sequencing facilities in South Africa.

And you know they've been working around the clock. So that's the kind of model that you know, we want for the future where people are open and

transparent and sharing their data, but in return, they shouldn't be punished or stigmatized.

FOSTER: OK, Dr. Swaminathan from the W.H.O thank you very much indeed, for your insight today. Appreciate it. Our teams around the world are working

hard to bring you the very latest on the COVID pandemic do go to to learn more about new travel restrictions, emerging COVID variants and what

governments are doing to tackle the virus.

Now as the world battles COVID, U.S. President Biden is pointing to another huge challenge preserving the freedoms that many of us take for granted?

We're live view from the White House just ahead, and they're back at the table in Vienna.

The campus sides move forward in the Iran nuclear talks after a rocky restart to live update ahead as well and the jaw dropping judgments against

China from an independent group of jurors. It says Beijing committed genocide and the country's top leaders are responsible.



FOSTER: As fears grow that Russia will invade Ukraine, Mr. Biden plans to talk with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the coming hours.

President Biden has ruled out sending U.S. chips to Ukraine.

However, the Pentagon is planning to send the final elements of a military aid package this week to help Ukraine bolster its defenses. Meanwhile, the

U.S. is looking at how to preserve freedom and democracy in the face of authoritarian regimes like Russia's.

President Joe Biden called it the defining challenge of our time as he kicked off a two day virtual democracy summit. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In the face of sustained and alarming challenges to democracy, universal human rights and all around

the world. Democracy needs champions. And I wanted to host this summit because here is the here in the United States, we know as well as anyone

that renewing our democracy and strengthening our democratic institutions requires constant effort.


FOSTER: Mr. Biden making reference to the challenges the U.S. itself has been facing. CNN's John Harwood is following the summit for us at the White

House, is such a huge topic this, isn't it? What's the purpose would you say this summit? What's going to come out of it?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not much in a concrete way. I think this is more hortatory, it's more of the President trying to send a

message around the world and within the United States about the importance of preserving the American experiment and, by extension democracy elsewhere

in the world.

Of course, the United States democracy was threatened by the January 6 insurrection, and by the efforts of former President Trump and Republican

allies to rig election administration in multiple states to try to see if they could get away with altering election outcomes in the future.

The Democratic Party has not had an effective answer to that at home. And that's one of the reasons why people think the president should devote more

attention to democracy at home than elsewhere.

But also the United States is confronting authoritarian regimes like China and Russia in multiple ways. You mentioned the call to Ukrainian President

Zelensky today, the President's trying to deter Russia from invading Ukraine again, as it did in 2014. And part of that message is both

threatening sanctions against Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, if he chooses to invade but also seeking some sort of a diplomatic off ramp.

And I'm sure he will discuss both with President Zelensky both bucking up the Ukrainian saying we are there to help you, as NATO country, NATO allies

are. But also talk about ways in which that it might be acceptable to lower the temperature of conflict in the region in ways that would also cause

Russia to back off.

So it is a very sensitive time diplomatically for President Biden. China, of course, is a huge economic competitor. But it's also been set menacing

Taiwan and the President invited Taiwan to this summit for democracy today in hopes of sending a message there as well.

FOSTER: OK, John Harwood at the White House. Thank you. China not participating in that U.S. democracy Summit and it's feeling the heat in

the form of diplomatic boycotts of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Canada, joining Australia, the UK and the United States in a diplomatic boycott, which was first announced by the U.S. last week to protest against

China's human rights record. Athletes will still be allowed to participate in the games.

France today said it won't boycott the games in the spirit of keeping politics and sports or so separate. China has said all the nation's staging

diplomatic boycotts will "pay the price" for their mistake and acts. China is also pushing back furiously against the bombshell judgment today by an

independent panel of jurors on its treatment of ethnic minorities.


FOSTER: A non-governmental tribunal here in the UK has ruled, the Beijing committed genocide against the Vegas and other minority groups through

policies like limiting births, and it claims the responsibility lies on the country senior leaders, including President Xi Jangling.

Chinese officials have called the tribunal a farce meant to mislead the public. The verdict comes just a day after the U.S. House of

Representatives passed a bill blocking the imports of Chinese products made using forced labor by Vegas and other minority groups. Ivan Watson

following the story for us from Hong Kong, Ivan the tribunal admits has no jurisdiction. So what does happen now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're trying to make a moral case to governments around the world to organizations that,

hey, look at this body of evidence that we've assembled that we've carefully reviewed all the testimonies they've listened to for more than a


The leaked Chinese government documents and this conclusion that they've come to a very grim one, which amounts to accusing the Chinese government

at the highest levels, the President Xi Jinping himself of being behind genocidal actions take a listen.


GEOFFREY NICE, UYGHUR TRIBUNAL CHAIR: On the basis of evidence heard in public, the Tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the PRC by

the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Vegas in Xinjiang, as such, has committed genocide.


WATSON: So, he describes a campaign of forced abortions, sterilizations of women of ramping up the number of IUDs put into members, women from the

ethnic minorities in the southern part of Xinjiang that effectively have reduced the birth rate and growth rate.

Their conclusions that by the way, mirror previous investigative reporting that we've done here at CNN, the tribunal goes on to say that they have

seen evidence of widespread torture and sexual assault in the penal system of the mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people.

And what they say is a systematic campaign of destroying Muslim mosques and cemeteries. Now, the Chinese government blasts all of this, as you

mentioned, they call this a downright pseudo tribunal, pointing out it has no jurisdiction whatsoever.

China did not participate in this project and accuses the tribunal of being backed by a Uighur exile group that Beijing labels as a terrorist

organization. Beijing also put sanctions on the same barrister that you just heard in that sound bite just now.

But the fact is, is the discussion about Xinjiang is getting bigger, as you pointed out, it is the key reason for the U.S. diplomatic boycott of the

upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, a boycott that has grown to three other governments now, Max.

FOSTER: OK. Ivan Watson in Hong Kong, thank you. The latest rounds of Iran nuclear talks resuming in Vienna today, negotiations broke down last Friday

after European negotiators said Iran didn't make serious opening proposals.

Iran's initial drafts covers sanctions removal and nuclear commitments, so far, Iran and the U.S. have been negotiating indirectly through the other P

five plus one nation's party to the talks. The U.S. Special Envoy for Iran returned to the talks this weekend. Fred Pleitgen is checking developments

for us from Berlin. Go on then, keep it simple.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it's very difficult actually Max, to keep it simple. But essentially what

the Iranians are saying is they of course want full sanctions relief from the United States.

And they also want commitments from the United States that you were just talking about, that the next administration after the Biden administration,

if this deal is put back in place, would not immediately exit the deal, again, the way that the Trump administration did after the Obama


Now both of those things, obviously very difficult for the U.S. to give any leeway on, the Biden Administration says it's quite hard for it to give any

sort of guarantees beyond the time that it itself is in office.

And one of the things that we also have to keep in mind with all these negotiations, and with the lifting of sanctions is that the Trump

Administration purposely put sanctions in place that on the face of it are unrelated to Iran's nuclear activities.

But that make it very, very difficult for the U.S. to really separate that and to give the Iranians the kind of sanctions relief that they essentially

want. Nevertheless, the party like the U.S. and the UK are saying that time is running out to try and achieve a deal.

And especially the UK has said that they believe that this is as they put it, Iran's last chance. And the U.S. is also saying that the negotiations

at some point will have to end. Let's listen to what the spokesman for the State Department has to say about this.



NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It remains in our interest, above all the other alternatives to seek a mutual return to compliance with

the JCPOA. Eventually, we may conclude that either the Iranians aren't serious and won't be serious going forward or the technological clock will

have run out.


PLEITGEN: Now, the Iranians, obviously, Max have a very different view of all of this, they obviously said that they have always been serious about

the JCPOA, about the nuclear agreement.

And, of course, that it was the Americans who left that agreement, and therefore the Iranians believe that it is upon the Americans to try and get

back into the agreement and give the Iranians the sanctions relief that they want in order to put that agreement back in place.

It is quite interesting because the Iranians have put forward of course, a couple of proposals themselves to try and get things back on track. And the

situation has really evolved in these negotiations where on the one hand, you have the U.S. and first and foremost, its European allies.

And then on the other hand, you have Iran, China and Russia that have really formed a block and say that they believe that this could get back on

track and try to pressure the U.S. into making concessions to Iran, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. Thank you. Now coming up next on "Connect the World" the U.N., the U.N. is tripling its aid budget to

Afghanistan in 2022. We'll speak to the head of the U.N's relief organization about why so much more is needed and life is getting tougher

in Turkey. One of the country's middle class say they feel poorer by the day. That's all just ahead.


FOSTER: Welcome back. This is "Connect the World", I'm Max Foster in London. Now Afghanistan is facing unprecedented levels of hunger. In an

urgent appeal to the international community the U.N. warns that three and a half million Afghans face starvation as winter arrives.


FOSTER: Already more than half of the country faces acute food, food insecurity. And it's on the rise as well according to the World Food

Program. Many countries and international organizations have halted development assistance since the Taliban took control in August.

Now the U.N. is tripling its projected aid for Afghanistan next year. Martin Griffiths, who is the Head of the UN's Emergency Relief Agency,

recently talked about how many people need help in Afghanistan and other places around the world.



274 million people in need of humanitarian assistance that's up by 17 percent from 2021. And to give it a different look, it's equivalent to the

world's fourth most populous country.

We aim through this program to help 183 million the most vulnerable again, an increase from last year. And for this, we're looking for a record $41

billion for the world's humanitarian needs of the neediest in 2022.


FOSTER: Martin Griffiths joins us from the U.N.'s headquarters in New York. Thank you so much for joining us. For those who aren't keeping up with

this, just explain why budgets have been cut, why less money is being sent to Afghanistan?

GRIFFITHS: Thank you. Yes, I think that's the core issue today. Afghanistan, before the takeover by the Taliban depended on foreign

assistance, particularly by the way from the United States, its banking system depended on the United States, the U.S. used to pay for electricity.

And it also maintained support for many social services for the people that most of that was stopped when the Taliban took over. The exception was the

humanitarian element in those in that in terms of that support. And as you have been saying, we are launching the largest humanitarian appeal ever for

Afghanistan ever, in Afghanistan for 2022, for about $4.4 billion.

But the message I have today is that this may not be enough even that may not be enough to stave off the extraordinary impact of the economic free-

fall that we are observing now in Afghanistan, as a result of those other cuts.

FOSTER: But you do have a way for government's organizations to get money to those who need it. Even though those you know, the sources might have an

issue with working with the Taliban, there is a way for them to get that through.

GRIFFITHS: There is a way and there is a very well tested way that we have developed over many years in many different countries. The money goes to

the humanitarian agencies, UNICEF, ICRC, MSF and others Catholic Relief Services.

And they make sure that the money given goes directly to those in need. That's very true. But we're also asking for a certain amount of flexibility

on the use of that funding.

The flexibility, which means that we can include in our beneficiaries, those who are supporting core services for the people of Afghanistan, this

is not the Taliban. These are the people who run the health system. These are the people who run the education system.

70 percent of teachers have not been paid since August. Up to 4.2 million children are not in school, most of them women and girls, and a further 9

million are at risk of not going to school because of the close down of the education system. So we need to pay the teachers, we need to pay the civil

servants who support the education system. And we need to pay the electricity that the U.S. always bankrolled for Afghanistan.

We need to switch the lights back on so that the hospitals can run, the schools can run, and that we can save lives, the prospect of an immediate,

tragic impact on lives and livelihoods in Afghanistan, it's very real today. And we need to be much more urgent about how we spend money and what

we can spend it on.

FOSTER: I'm sure you have your - you know, you have your private conversations with ministers and government officials about this sort of

thing and they are talking about priorities. But you've also got an issue here, haven't you heard about the public's priorities in the West, for

example, places like America where the money's coming from?

They've got their immediate crises at home with COVID for example and other issues. Is that a big challenge for you that the public aren't pushing

their officials and politicians to help in Afghanistan?


GRIFFITHS: I think there is confusion in the public debate in many of these actually very generous countries. There's confusion in people who say, but

if we put money into Afghanistan, it will go straight into the hands of the Taliban.

And so far, the Taliban have not demonstrated their willingness to even come close to what we think they should be doing or behaving in terms of

their running of that country access for women and girls, for example. But there is confusion because we are not proposing to put money into the hands

of the Taliban; we're proposing to put money into the hands that run these core services.

I don't think the people of the West would have a problem with that, if it was clearly explained to them. We also need to get the economy working

again, because even if you might want - it might be able to fund the education system, the teachers won't be paid, they won't have cash in hands

to feed their families, if we don't have what's called liquidity in the economy.

And this was always supported and bankrolled and guaranteed by the U.S. and others. So there is action that needs to be urgently taken before the end

of this year.

I would like to see that economy opening up again, not for grand projects, but for the simple needs of paying frontline workers so that the people of

Afghanistan will continue to decide to stay home and not leave their country.

FOSTER: OK. Well, thank you very much for giving your insight from the United Nations a huge, huge challenge for everyone involved in Afghanistan.

But the problems are very real, as you've outlined. Thank you very much indeed.

GRIFFITHS: Thank you so much.

FOSTER: The president of Turkey calling for patience asking fellow Turks to trust his government's new economic model, but that's a big ask when the

country's currency is in free-fall, the Turkish Lira has lost nearly half its value this year.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh shows us what the currency crisis means to people just trying to get through each day?


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In this middle class Istanbul neighborhood people say they're getting poorer by the day, with

inflation at more than 20 percent and the Turkish Lira and free-fall. Turks are watching their incomes dwindle as prices skyrocket.

Richard Barrett Dyer - says he is barely surviving on his pension. He now can't afford to take his grandchildren out. You can't even buy them a toy.

A toy worth 10 Lira is now 14. He says children want everything they see what we do.

But it's not just the luxuries. Many here say they can barely afford the basics. - No longer brings a shopping cart to the market. I bought two

eggplants, a few zucchinis and one cauliflower; she tells us that's it. In the past, I used to buy kilos of everything. I used to fill up my shopping

cart. Now it's impossible.

This woman interrupts to tell us everything is very expensive. She says her husband; a tailor hasn't worked in over a year after he got ill with COVID.

The couples live off their pension. And it's barely enough to cover their expenses.

I get discounted bread from the municipality. We can't eat red meat. Not even once a week. I have no idea how we're going to survive. It's a

question on the minds of many Turks, so at times are watching the cost of pretty much everything rise on a daily basis.

KARADSHEH (on camera): Simit, the Turkish bagel, as it's known is a popular inexpensive street food and a breakfast staple in this country. This has

gone up by 30 percent in the past few days, shocking for a lot of people here who say if the Simit wasn't spared, what's next.

KARADSHEH (voice over): The Turkish Lira lost nearly half of its value this year, more than 30 percent of that in November alone. Most experts blame

this on the Turkish president's unorthodox economic policies to fight inflation.

Most countries raise interest rates, but Turkey is doing the opposite. President Erdogan a staunch opponent of high interest rates that he

describes as an evil that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, has pushed the central bank to cut borrowing costs, lower interest rates and a

depreciated currency, he argues will boost production jobs, tourism and exports. But experts are questioning the President's plan.

CAN SELCUKI, GENERAL MANAGER, ISTANBUL ECONOMICS RESEARCH: Turkey is now raising the prices for the entire economy for the benefit of actually

around 20, 25 percent of the economy. So it's not really helping the household that's trying to cope with high inflation.

The problem is there is no focus on fighting with the inflation which is the core of the problem right now in Turkey and the unpredictability that

comes along with it.


KARADSHEH (voice over): President Erdogan's promising results within six months. But with the 2023 elections fast approaching, match rides on his

ability to deliver.

SELCUKI: At the core of President Erdogan's success for the better half of the past two decades was his ability to deliver for middle and low income

households. And now it seems to have completely turned around where you know middle income and low income households are really suffering.

KARADSHEH (voice over): The suffering may cost Erdogan at the polls, but for now, it's ordinary Turks who are bearing the brunt of this political

gamble. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


FOSTER: Let's get you up to date on some other stories that we're following for you this hour. India's military pay tribute to its defense chief

General Bipin Rawat who was killed on Wednesday in a helicopter crash.

12 other people including his wife also died in the crash in southern India. The Indian Prime Minister tweeted he was deeply anguished by their

deaths. Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai and two others have been found guilty of unauthorized assembly.

Hong Kong court convicted them of attending or inciting others to attend a vigil on June the fourth of last year. That's the anniversary of the 1989

crackdown on Tiananmen Square. They'll be sentenced on Monday.

Coming up how an iconic endangered species made a miraculous recovery and the new technology helping to protect it.


FOSTER: Today on "Call to Earth" a new national park and advanced technology are helping the recovery of China's giant pandas, which being

brought back from the brink of extinction.

Over the last few decades CNN's David Culver visited a Giant Panda Breeding center in Chengdu and China's Sichuan province to learn more.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It is China's most beloved species, the iconic face of this nation, treasured globally, once in danger

and near extinction. Now the giant panda is on path to populate China's majestic mountains for generations to come.

Welcome to Panda Valley as it's called. For years these cuddly looking creatures have lazily roamed here in central China's Sichuan Province.

Despite decades of encroaching human development in 2021 as part of an effort to increase biodiversity across China, five new national parks were

unveiled half of the 10 pilot areas under review for National Park status.


CULVER (voice over): Among the first batch created the giant Panda National Park. It's become a panda sanctuary, thanks in part to what happens here.

At the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, when we visited, this one was getting ready for its close up.

CULVER (on camera): Giant pandas are known as flagship species in ecologically, they're not as important as they are culturally here in

China. But by protecting the giant panda, you're protecting the ecosystems for potentially millions of other species.

CULVER (voice over): I met some of the Rangers tasked with protecting that ecosystem, and was surprised by how big tech has revolutionized their jobs

looking to protect pandas. Well, there's an app for that.

They are using the digital panda system developed by Chinese tech giant Huawei, with the Sichuan forest and grassland administration along with

other partners, spanning all of Sichuan Province.

This system uses more than 600 cameras, along with drones and satellites to detect wildfires in hard to reach areas with data stored in the hallway


ZHAO JIAN, SOLUTIONS EXPERT, HUAWEI: In those locations, there is often no power supply, so we provide microwave transmission network solutions and

solar power solutions to support this kind of system in the wild.

CULVER (voice over): Technology like this has also been used to track and monitor the other residents of the forest, like the black bear, golden

pheasant, Tibetan - and long tailed Garro, helping to protect the biodiversity that sustains all life, including us humans.

AHIMSA CAMPOS-ARCEIZ, PROFESSOR, CHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCE: Bio diversity provides what we call ecosystem services. These are goods and services that

we don't pay for, but we need.

Nature provides this clean water we can drink but if we need to produce this water is much more expensive. And when we lose biodiversity, we are

kind of breaking this function. With technology we have much better information and we can be better informed.

CULVER (voice over): This is just the latest of long standing conservation efforts that have helped revive the ones dwindling giant panda population.

Over the past 20 years, the number of wild giant pandas in China has jumped nearly 80 percent from about 1000 to roughly 1800 removing it from the

endangered species list in 2021.

This conservation success story is thanks to the work of people like Hou Rong nicknamed Panda mom. She's worked with Pandas for almost three


HOU RONG, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CHENGDU RESEARCH BASE OF GIANT PANDA BREEDING: To protect the giant pandas, we want more people to pay attention to

biodiversity protection. The giant panda is definitely not the only species we care about. We hope to extend the conservation efforts to other species.

CULVER (on camera): Here in Chengdu, it's not only the giant pandas, but also you've got these guys, red pandas a bit more approachable, but equally

as cute and cuddly.

CULVER (voice over): Sadly, red pandas are still endangered. But the hope is with new technologies designed to protect these newly minted national

parks, there will be more safe spaces for a range of species, from the lesser known to the most famous to lounge freely for centuries David

Culver, CNN, Chengdu, China.


FOSTER: You're listening to what you're doing to answer the call with a #calltoearth.



FOSTER: Chinese property developer Evergrande is facing a downgrade thanks to not paying on its debt. The ratings company fixed as the company hasn't

met its debt obligations totaling around $300 billion.

Chinese business analysts are worried it could trigger a wider crisis in China's property market. Selina Wang has been covering this story for us

from Tokyo. It's really hard to get you ahead around these figures but also the potential repercussions Selina.

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly what this rating downgrade from Fitch does is make this default from Evergrande official. But Max the

market has been waiting for this moment for an incredibly long time. For months now this property giant has been scrambling to reap to raise cash to

pay its lenders.

It's been struggling to meet bond payment deadline after deadline. And Evergrande has about $300 billion in liabilities. That's a massive number

and many investors knew that it was only a matter of time before it ran out of cash to pay its bills.

Now it's unclear exactly what the next steps will be. But the company has said that it's going to work with its offshore creditors in order to work

on a restructuring plan. The company also said it was going to set up a risk management committee.

The government is also getting involved with management with the local government in Guangdong Province, where Evergrande is based saying it's

going to set up a working committee to make sure that Evergrande keeps its normal operations.

Now Evergrande has really in China become this poster child of reckless borrowing in the property sector that helps supercharge the economy with

the property sector ballooning to account for as much as 30 percent of China's GDP.

But the Communist Party now sees that reckless borrowing as a threat to financial stability. The big fear a few months ago was that given how

intertwined and big and complex Evergrande is that the failure of this company could spell economic disaster for China.

Although we have seen other property developers struggle as well to repay their debts, it is clear now that this is not China's Lehman moment. And

the Central Bank of China has reiterated that they are confident that the contagion the risk from this can be contained.

But Max, what's really important here in terms of the implication is what this says about the future of China's economic model. Economists say that

this high growth model in China where the property sector pumped huge amounts of credit to fuel that growth.

Those days are now over, so we may be entering into this period of slower economic growth in China.

FOSTER: Selina in Tokyo, thank you. Australian lawmakers have issued a scathing new report blasting Rupert Murdoch's News Corp as a "dangerous

monopoly" that came out of a Senate inquiry into the media company's influence in Australia. Paula Hancocks has more from Sydney.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Australian lawmakers Thursday have criticized media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and the control that his

media has in this country.

Now, this was the result of a year-long inquiry by an Australian Senate Committee, which called News Corp, the country's "clearest example of a

troubling media monopoly".

They did stop short though of calling on the company to dilute or to sell off any of its assets, but they have recommended that there is a judiciary

inquiry into media diversity, ownership and regulation.

They have found that media regulation in Australia is not "fit for purpose". Now, this is the result of a petition that was initiated by

former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. And it secured more than half a million signatures according to the report it's the largest electronic petition

ever presented to an Australian Parliament.


HANCOCKS: The news court hasn't immediately responded to our questions and to CNNs request for a comment on this report. But back in February earlier

this year, News Corp during a public hearing did say that they believe diversity was more about ownership, more than just ownership.

But it was also about a diversity of opinion, which they believe Australians have access to, Paula Hancocks, CNN, Sydney, Australia.

FOSTER: New Zealand plans to outlaw smoking for the next generation a proposed bill would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco year by year

so that people aged 14 when the law goes into effect will never be able to buy it legally.

The legalization does not cover vaping, which remains popular amongst New Zealand's young people. Astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting a

pair of stars that are so big and hot. It's challenging how scientists understand how planets form.

These are artist's conceptions of the planet and photos of its double stars the hottest and most massive binary system ever found. Its 325 light years

away with this giant exo-planets 10 times the size of Jupiter, plus the photos were captured from a telescope the binary star system can be seen

with the naked eye incredibly. Thank you for watching. I'm Max Foster in London. "One World" with Zain Asher is next.