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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

World Cup Facing New Scrutiny Over Migrant Workers; Russian Drone Attacks Trigger Massive Blackouts In Odesa; Sen. Sinema Registers As Independent, Leaving Democratic Party. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 12, 2022 - 05:30   ET





BRUNO PETKOVIC, CROATIA STRIKER (through translator): We don't have a specific plan or individual idea to stop Messi. We have seen before, when we played against very good teams with very good individual players, that we were playing as a team. We never focused on an individual. So I don't believe we will have a special plan to stop one player because Argentina has a lot of good players, so we will not focus just on one.


DAVIES: Well, Croatia looking to go that step further than four years ago when they were beaten in the final by France.

France, though, for their part, back in the semifinal once again -- the first defending champion since 1998 to make it this far through the competition and looking to go that step further to become the first back-to-back winner since Brazil in 1962.

But they are up against a Moroccan side who have picked up so much support over the last few weeks. An extra load of flights has been put on from Morocco here to Qatar to bring the tens of thousands of fans here. Of course, they are looking to make history. They're the first African side into the semifinal of a World Cup. They're the first Arabian side into the semifinal of a World Cup.

And they are enjoying their status as underdogs. Their coach, Walid Regragui, likening them to the Rocky of football.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN ANCHOR: Amanda, thank you so much. It was such a great weekend to watch Morocco and now, gearing up for next weekend. Thank you so much for bringing us up to speed, Amanda -- appreciate it.

So, Qatar is facing new scrutiny from migrant worker deaths after the CEO of the 2022 World Cup downplayed a recent migrant's death in the media. But foreign workers have their own stories to tell of exploitation and abuse. Let's go to CNN's Larry Madowo, live from Nairobi, Kenya. And you've been speaking with migrant workers as they return home. What can you tell us?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristin, we've heard harrowing tales of time in Qatar and some migrant workers who were speaking to us out of the country say they're not having it any easier. One African migrant worker was reportedly called, repeatedly, a lazy Black monkey.

This $220 billion Qatar World Cup dream was built on the back of black and brown labor from migrant workers from South Asia and here in Africa. And they tell us they endured racist, sometimes physical and verbal abuse, long working hours in sweltering heat over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That's over 40 degrees Celsius. They saw, sometimes, colleagues collapse from the heat, and some died.

And they didn't feel that they could speak out because when FIFA inspectors came, they had to say they were being treated well for fear of their jobs.

These are their stories.


MADOWO (voice-over): Boniface Barasa is back in Kenya but says he's still suffering from trauma after three years as a construction worker in Qatar before the World Cup.

BONIFACE BARASA, FORMER MIGRANT WORKER: I saw the supervisor call another Kenyan a lazy Black monkey. Then when the Kenyan encountered back he asked him "Why are you calling me a Black monkey?" Then he slapped -- the supervisor slapped the Kenyan.

MADOWO (voice-over): The 38-year-old is a lifelong football fan but says he hasn't watched any matches. The pain is still too fresh.

BARASA: Another one died from that harsh weather conditions. My colleague died. Another one was beaten and was -- and he went missing.

MADOWO (on camera): You saw somebody die in front of you?

BARASA: Yeah, somebody collapsed and died. And I think that was because of the harsh weather conditions.

MADOWO (on camera): Because of the heat.

BARASA: Because of the heat -- the limited drinking water breaks.

MADOWO (voice-over): Last month, the Qatar World Cup chief acknowledged that 400 to 500 migrant workers have died on projects connected to the tournament.

As the World Cup got underway, some Black migrant workers have taken on highly visible roles in a country where they are often invisible. Part of the workforce but not the society. Kenyan traffic officer Dennis Kamau handing out red and yellow cards,

entertains fans, and has attracted global media attention.

And 23-year-old Kenyan Abubakar Abbas has become a viral megastar as "metro guy." Organizers even brought him out to address fans before the England-USA game.

But advocates for migrant workers dismiss these as isolated cases and empty P.R. that hide a dark, exploitive work environment.

MALCOLM BIDALI, CO-FOUNDER, MIGRANT DEFENDERS: As we speak, we see a lot of people not getting paid. People are still living in cramped conditions. We have people still facing physical and verbal and sexual assault, discrimination, long working hours, working conditions -- horrible working conditions.

MADOWO (voice-over): Malcolm Bidali was a security guard in Qatar but says he was detained for advocating for migrant workers' rights.


BIDALI: I am very worried and scared, and concerned when the World Cup ends because, like, all the media -- you know, spotlight and everything else will shift and move away to the next big thing.

MADOWO (voice-over): Qatar says this man told the previous restrictive migrant labor system, which has been criticized across the Gulf for exploiting foreign workers from Africa and South Asia, and taking away their passports. But critics say the reality has not changed.

Geoffrey Owino was a safety inspector at Lusail stadium who believes he, too, was deported from Qatar for speaking up for migrant workers.

MADOWO (on camera): The African migrant workers complain of exploitation despite all these changes Qatar says it has put in place.

GEOFFREY OWINO, FORMER MIGRANT WORKER: On paper, the laws are very good, but implementation and goodwill from the government of Qatar is the problem. That's why workers will continue complaining until a framework -- a robust justice system is put in place whereby violators of these laws against migrant workers are punished.

MADOWO (voice-over): Geoffrey says he receives complaints and distress calls from migrant workers all over the Gulf, desperate to return home.


MADOWO: Organizers of the Qatar World Cup have told CNN that they do not victimize any migrant workers and certainly don't detain them just for speaking up. And the country has reformed its labor laws since 2020, but everybody we speak to tells us it's not being enforced and it's not being implemented to the same extent that the country says. In fact, one migrant worker described the condition for us as sort of like being in modern-day slavery, Kristin. FISHER: Oh, that's horrible. But thank you so much for your reporting, Larry Madowo. Thank you so much, live from Kenya.

So just ahead, the new mayor of Los Angeles making history. Plus --


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, the city of refuge is facing regular Russian attacks.


FISHER: Russian drone attacks. Parts of Ukraine under widespread blackouts.



FISHER: This morning, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine is trying to secure more assistance from the United States as his country deals with these massive hits to critical energy sources.

CNN's Will Ripley has more from Odesa, Ukraine.


RIPLEY (voice-over): A race to restore electricity to parts of southern Ukraine this weekend. More than 1 1/2 million people in the Odesa region alone plunged into darkness at the peak of the outages.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blames the blackouts on Russian self-detonating drones made in Iran.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): After the night strike -- the strike by Iranian drones -- Odesa and other cities and villages of the region are in the dark.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Ukraine's military says it shot down 10 out of 15 explosive drones Russia fired Friday night.

The region's energy authority warns stabilizing the power grid could take weeks, even months.

RIPLEY (on camera): Before the blackouts, the Black Sea and vibrant nightlife made this southern port city a tourist hotspot. With the war, came a flood of internally displaced Ukrainians, increasing the population of one of Ukraine's largest cities. Now, this city of refuge is facing regular Russian attacks.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Odesa's power station also took a direct hit last week when Russia fired dozens of missiles at targets nationwide. An ongoing assault on Ukraine's energy infrastructure that left many Odessans in the dark for days.

RIPLEY (on camera): So what was that like -- no power for three days? KOSTIANTYN VORONYN, ODESA RESIDENT: No electricity. We have no chance to cook because we have electric cooker. We have no kitchen because we have no generator for this.

RIPLEY (voice-over): These parents of three young children look for creative ways to keep the kids occupied.

OLENA VORONYNA, ODESA RESIDENT: We try and make some activities for them. For example, music, school.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Just hours after Friday's drone strikes plunged much of the region into darkness, the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra gave a candlelight performance. Even a war won't stop the music.

Will Ripley, CNN, Odesa, Ukraine.


FISHER: Well, thank you.

So, next, how the U.S. Senate's new Independent could affect the Democrats' narrow majority. And the ripple effects of climate change on the world's food supply.



FISHER: Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is weighing in on the Senate's new Independent, Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I happen to suspect that it's probably a lot to do with politics back in Arizona. I think the Democrats there are not all that enthusiastic about somebody who helped sabotage some of the most important legislation that protects the interests of working families and voting rights, and so forth.


FISHER: So, if Sinema caucuses with Democrats as expected, the party will have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Let's bring in senior political correspondent at The New Republic, Daniel Strauss. Good morning, Daniel.

You know, over the weekend, we saw CNN's Jake Tapper sit down with Sen. Sinema, and listen to what she told him.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AZ): Well, I intend to maintain my position on my committees and keep doing the work that I have been doing for Arizona. So I don't think that things will change in terms of how I operate or of the work that I do in the United States Senate. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FISHER: She also told Jake that 51 Senate seats is a -- is a very D.C. thing to worry about. But majority -- control of the Senate -- I'm pretty sure that's a -- it's an American thing to worry about -- that people all over the country worry about.

What do you think?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC (via Skype): Yes. I mean, look, it's true that I think most Americans probably don't know at any given point in time the exact margin of whichever party controls the Senate.


But this is deadly serious. This is a matter of who can control what the Senate passes and really even what they take up on the Senate floor. And the reality of today's politics right now is that despite the fact that you really need a 60-vote majority to pass almost anything in the Senate, a few Senate seats can make the difference in what the party in power can pass.

In this -- in this situation, that means whether it is a more watered down or less expansive domestic policy bill like the one that Sen. Sanders is referencing in the clip you played, or something more robust.

And that's the real question I think that is behind Sinema's move to become an Independent from being a Democrat. Does this show that she plans to follow her -- an ongoing pattern with her since she became a senator of taking a more conservative tact within the Democratic Party on their key legislation going forward?


Well, let's also take a look at her poll numbers because that can obviously have a factor in here. We've got this poll from Arizona showing 54 percent of likely voters view Sinema unfavorably.

She's not said yet whether or not she's going to run for reelection but do you think there's a chance that this is a strategy to avoid a primary in 2024?

STRAUSS: Probably. I mean, my reporting shows that private numbers have shown her approval rating among likely Democratic voters to be even more dire than the poll numbers you just showed.

And it's kind of a curious sort of move to make because her colleague in the Senate, Mark Kelly -- the other senator from Arizona -- just won by running as a very, very consistent Democratic candidate for Senate.

It's just sort of unusual that now that Arizona has a Democratic governor and a Democratic senator after a few tough cycles, she opts to take a sort of third way here and try and rally Republican voters. I think what that shows -- that's a bit of a tell, combined with the poll numbers you just showed, that her personal brand in Arizona is not ideal for a Democratic primary.

FISHER: Yes, and I think you said it best in your latest article. You said this move, while shocking, is not surprising. So, Democrats now having to wake up to that new reality here after this big announcement on Friday.

Daniel Strauss of The New Republic, thank you.


FISHER: So, right now, winter storms on both U.S. coasts with the worst yet to come this week. And can lawmakers in Washington stave off a government shutdown? Here we go again.



FISHER: The NFL's Mr. Irrelevant puts on a show against the quarterback that many consider to be the greatest of all time.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. Good morning, Carolyn.


Forty-niners quarterback Brock Purdy wasn't expected to play this season after being selected with the final pick in last April's NFL draft, but injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo forced him into action. And he certainly made the most of it in his first NFL start.

Purdy would face a quarterback nearly 23 years his senior, Tom Brady and Tampa Bay. And if he was intimidated by Brady's homecoming he did not show it. The rookie led four touchdown drives in the first half. It was a sweet moment when his dad started wiping away tears in the stands after his son put the 49ers up 21-0 with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey.

San Francisco going on to blow out the Bucs 35-7, making Purdy the first quarterback to beat Tom Brady in his debut as an NFL starter.


TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: He played really well and threw a lot of good balls. Hung in there in the blitz and they did a good job. They did a really good job.

BROCK PURDY, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS QUARTERBACK: To him to just have respect for what I did today was pretty cool -- I'm not going to lie. So me being a little kid watching that guy kill it throughout all these years, win Super Bowls, and then to be able to see him and give him a high five or whatever at the end, I thought it was pretty cool.


MANNO: Classy move from the GOAT after the loss, for sure. The Philadelphia Eagles are the first team to punch a playoff spot after routing the Giants 48-22. Jalen Hurts making his case for league MVP, throwing for close to 220 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 77 yards and a score. He is the only quarterback in NFL history with 10 rushing touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.

So, Philly, the best team in the league at 12-1 on the season and a perfect 6-0 on the road so far.

The Cowboys narrowly avoided upset of the year against the Texans. They needed a 98-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to get it done. Dallas was a 17 1/2-point favorite coming into the game, the largest spread of the season, but they found themselves down by three late in the fourth quarter. Dak Prescott taking his team nearly the entire length of the field. Ezekiel Elliott punching it in from the 2- yard line for the go-ahead score with just 41 seconds left.

The Cowboys win a tight one and hand the Texans their eighth-straight loss.

And here's some Monday motivation for you, Kristin. Retired NHL star Jaromir Jagr is 50 years old and owns his own hockey team in the Czech Republic.

But after an illness swept through the locker room, leaving just a few players available, he did what any good owner would do. He suited up and he jumped into the lineup. And get this -- he even picked up two assists in 15 minutes of action.

There is one catch though, Kristin. His return to pro hockey is going to delay his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame until at least 2026. But what a moment. What a leader to kind of step in and even lend a couple of assists in the process. I love it.

FISHER: No kidding. This should not delay his induction into the Hall of Fame. This should expedite it.

MANNO: Exactly.

FISHER: Carolyn Manno, thank you so much.

MANNO: Sure.