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Hala Gorani Tonight

Joe Biden: Sharing Vaccine With Other Nations Is Key To Avoiding New Variants; Germany Bars The Unvaccinated From Most Of Public Life; WHO: Travel Bans Won't Keep Omicron From Spreading; Africa Lags On Vaccinations As Omicron Spreads; China Responds To WTA Decision To Halt Regional Tournaments; U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken Warns Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Amid Ukraine Tensions; Alec Baldwin Says He Did Not Pull Trigger On Movie Set; U.K. Court Dismisses Newspaper Group's Appeal In Duchess Meghan's Privacy Battle. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 02, 2021 - 14:00   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will do more. But this is a global pandemic, and everyone needs to fight it together. And that includes

countries we're helping that aren't particularly friendly toward us. Their populations are in trouble. To their credit, the scientific community,

particularly in South Africa, quickly notified the world of the emergence of this new variant. This kind of transparency is to be encouraged and

applauded because it increases our ability to respond quickly to any new threats.

And that's what we did. On the very day the World Health Organization identified the new variant, I took an immediate step to restrict travel

from the countries in southern Africa. But while we know the travel restrictions can slow the spread of Omicron, they cannot prevent it. But it

does give us a little more time to take more precautions at home to prepare. A month ago, we announced requirements that foreign travelers must

be vaccinated if entering the United States.

This week, I announced an additional action to strengthen international travel rules, to give us more time to stop the spread and study a new

variant. It used to be that international travel, flying to the United States -- travel, flying to the United States, had to test negatively three

days before their departure from that country. Well, I'm announcing today that all in-bound international travelers must test within one day of

departure regardless of their vaccination status.

This tighter testing timetable provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the Omicron variant. And we are extending the

requirement both internationally and domestically to wear masks for travel on aircraft, trains, public transportation through the Winter months. I'll

close with this. Again, the actions I'm announcing are ones that all Americans can rally behind and should unite us in the fight against COVID-


And they come from a position of strength. We are better positioned than we were a year ago to fight COVID-19. Since day one of my administration,

we've been doing everything we can to beat this virus. And that's what we have to keep doing. That's how we keep our country and our businesses and

our schools open. And that's how even with the pandemic, we've generated record-job creation, 5.6 million new jobs since January 20th. More than any

president in American history.

We're on the track to the fastest economic growth in four decades. In four decades. We move forward in the face of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. And

we'll move forward in the face of Omicron variant as well. And we'll do it by keeping the faith and doing it together as the United States of America.

Let me close again by saying, God bless our doctors, our scientists, and all of you here at NIH, for what you're doing for the country and, quite

frankly, for the world. You're the best. You're the very best, and God bless you all. Thank you for your patience in listening to me. Thank you.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Well, you have just been listening to U.S. President Joe Biden outlining the next steps to tackle COVID-19 in

the Winter months. Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade. Well, Mr. Biden spoke about improving testing for travelers, and he made yet another plea to get people


Mr. Biden is just one of many world leaders scrambling to introduce new restrictions as a perfect storm of COVID-19 variants, sees a case surge in

different parts of the world. The head of Africa's CDC says the continent has seen a 20 percent increase in new cases in the past month, driven

mainly by the new Omicron variant.

Now, South Africa in particular which first identified it, has experienced an increase in more than 150 percent. While meanwhile, parts of Europe are

already struggling with the Delta variant, Germany is barring unvaccinated people from entering all, but the essential businesses, and it's signaling

that vaccines could become mandatory from February. Well, Delta dominates there for now. But the European CDC says Omicron could be responsible for

more than half of the new cases in Europe in a few months.

Our correspondents are covering this story, our Frederik Pleitgen joins us from Berlin, and our David McKenzie is standing by for us in Johannesburg.

Good to have you both with us. Fred, I'll start with you because Germany is again introducing some pretty tough measures for the unvaccinated. Some of

these measures have already been in place in some of the hardest-hit areas. But they are now being rolled out across the country.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there certainly have been, and for Germany, it really is a two-fold thing, Lynda,

on the one hand, of course, as you've mentioned, the Delta variant is very much still spreading here in Germany, and actually today, the German CDC

said that there were 73,000 new cases in a span of 24 hours. You can see that Germany is still very much in the midst of a massive COVID wave. And

the same time, of course, you do have Omicron looming here in Germany and taking hold here in Germany.

And that of course is something that's going on around the world where you have scientists scrambling to try and find out more about Omicron, how

potentially dangerous and contagious it could be. But, at the same time, Omicron in many places taking hold. Let's have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Omicron variant now makes up three-quarters of positive tests in South Africa's Gauteng Province. The country is facing a

new wave of coronavirus infections. And a top South African researcher said Thursday that it may be fueled, in part, by a unique characteristic about



and we didn't see an increase in re-infections over and above what we expect when the force of infection changes, when the wave stops. However,

we are seeing an increase for Omicron. Previous infection used to protect against Delta, and now with Omicron, it doesn't seem to be the case.

PLEITGEN: All preliminary evidence points to relatively mild symptoms with Omicron.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Dr. Anthony Fauci; director --

PLEITGEN: And scientists are still hopeful that the current vaccines will prevent severe disease.

COOPER: Fauci?

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We know from our experience with Delta that even though the

vaccine is not directed specifically at Delta, it's directed against the ancestral strain, the Wuhan strain. Yet, when you get your levels of

antibody high enough, you protect against Delta. That's where we are hoping we'll see with the Omicron variant.

PLEITGEN: With or without Omicron, the pandemic rages on. Here in Germany, hospitalizations are rising and the government is banning unvaccinated

people from accessing all but most essential businesses. Both Angela Merkel and her designated successor Olaf Scholz who is set to take over next week,

say they back the idea of mandatory vaccinations.

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR, GERMANY (through translator): We always have access to cultural and recreational facilities and events throughout

Germany regardless of the incidents, only to those who have been vaccinated and cured.

PLEITGEN: South Korea has found just a handful of Omicron cases among travelers from Africa, but is reporting a record number of new coronavirus

infections for the second straight day. Omicron has proven once again that no one is safe until we're all safe. And the W.H.O. is urging African

governments to step up their vaccination efforts.


vaccine protection. So far, only 102 million African in Africa or 7.5 percent of the continent population is fully vaccinated. More than 80

percent of the population has not received even a single dose.

PLEITGEN: Vaccination centers like this one in Nigeria, as critical as ever in the global efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic.


PLEITGEN: So, as you can see there, the struggle is on really around the world, Lynda, to try and come to terms obviously in general with the

coronavirus, but with the Omicron variant in particular, and here in Germany certainly, there is no exception to that either. The government of

Angela Merkel and her designated successor today, essentially announcing a lockdown for unvaccinated people, but also saying that they are announcing

a massively accelerated vaccination campaign, and they want to administer at least 30 million shots by the end of this year.

That is both first-time vaccinations and booster shots as well. So, you can really see government here is really trying to step things up as the

pandemic really is hitting this country hard right now. Lynda?

KINKADE: Yes, it really is, 30 million shots by the end of the year, wow. I want to go to David because this Omicron variant was first detected in

South Africa. You're in Johannesburg. It's since been found in about -- at least 24 countries around the world. What impact is the variant having on

the case surges there in the country?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Omicron, according to scientists, Lynda, is the dominant variant here in southern Africa. And in

South Africa, we are seeing a very strong surge of cases, exponential growth of positive cases. Now, it is worth remembering that South Africa

was due to have a fourth wave at around this time. And these issues are complicated and can't be necessarily very easily teased out.

But what we do know is that there is some concern from scientists that the Omicron variant can re-infect people who were already positive at an

earlier stage with a previous variant, meaning you got COVID, you get it again.


Now, they do estimate that those re-infections will be less severe. And there is indication that the vaccination is key, that people who are in the

hospitals now, still not huge numbers in South Africa, are mostly unvaccinated, which is a good sign that the vaccines work against severe

disease even with this more troubling variant. Lynda?

KINKADE: And David, just in terms of people dealing with the surge in cases in South Africa, the foreign minister, of course, complained that because

they detected this variant there, that they're being punished instead of being applauded. What effect are these travel bans going to have across

that entire region?

MCKENZIE: They'll have a massive effect. This is a key period of travel to this region, particularly for tourists from the U.K. and Europe. That is

completely shut off to -- well, to a large degree. And you had President Biden there just a short time ago, saying they needed to, quote, "buy

themselves a little more time." Well, many public health experts, certainly those in Africa say that the variant will be widespread already, despite

the fast work by South African scientists.

So, these restrictions are very punitive without necessarily much worth. The criticism, at least, is that, there's a nuanced approach that is

needed, but generally, individual countries are treating this with a sledge hammer. Lynda?

KINKADE: Yes, I bet they are. All right, David McKenzie, good to have you with us, our Frederik Pleitgen, thanks very much for being with us. Well,

the World Health Organization said it once and they're saying it again, blanket travel bans do not keep Omicron from spreading to new places or any

variant of the COVID-19. Dozens of countries have closed borders for travelers from southern African nations.

And some countries like the U.S. have said the bans buy them time as they wait for more information about the variant. But the W.H.O. says by the

time you know it's a threat, it's likely already in your country. Richard Quest joins me now from New York. Plenty to discuss, including the recent

press conference from --


KINKADE: Biden. I just want to ask you, first off, under what circumstances do these travel bans work?

QUEST: Look, they slow down. They certainly slow down the expansion of the virus. And I think the clearest indication of that is what happened with

South Africa. If you bear in mind, their flights, two flights from Jo-burg and Cape Town up to Amsterdam, there's KLM flight where there were 60

people who were infected, 11 or 12 of them or 13 with the new variant. So, if you extrapolate and think that for days, that may have been going on.

Well, by having a travel ban, you certainly stop it.

Yes, you don't kill it off completely. Only in western Australia or those places where they've got complete travel bans, no one comes in and no one

goes out, and even then, you're just building a pressure cooker that eventually will blow up in your face when you start to open things up

again, as Sydney discovered. So, travel bans, targeted, minimalist, restricted travel bans can slow things down. But as a general

epidemiological policy, or a bad idea.

KINKADE: And of course, Richard, we just heard --

QUEST: Yes --

KINKADE: From the U.S. President Biden announcing new rules for travelers. He spoke about people coming into the country, that they are all in-bound

international passengers will have to be tested for COVID within 24 hours of departure. Explain for us how this testing will work. Is it feasible?

QUEST: Oh, yes, it's feasible. It's just not very easy. You know, those of us who travel in and out, I've been in and out of this country more times

than hot dinners over the last -- first of all, if you are talking about a PCR test, and we don't know whether this will just be an antigen.

I'm thinking it's going to have to be a rapid antigen or a lateral flow. Because if it's a PCR test, you are talking about a 12 to 16-hour normal

turnaround, and that's a good turnaround I beg to say. It's usually 24 hours. But humor me, Lynda, let's assume it is a normal antigen rapid flow

test that can be done. That can be done at the airport.

That can be done by using some -- right, the Abbott Binax kit where you swab, put it in the card and wait 15 minutes and you see. So that is

entirely possible, it won't be easy to put in place, but it's possible. I'll give you an example. Albert eMed sell boxes that you take with you on

the road and you're watched online by somebody who watches it, you do the test, they see the card, stays negative, and then they send you the



So, yes, it's going to require a bit more planning, it's going to require a lot of thought, and the travel industry will adapt. I guarantee you. Places

like London Heathrow, there will be a plethora of 24-hour, 15-minute tests available for a price.

KINKADE: For a price. I mean, I'm sure we'll see certainly --

QUEST: Oh, look --

KINKADE: A lot of changes. I mean, we are going into the holidays. There are a lot of people hoping to be reunited with families for the first time

in some cases in two years. What's it going to mean if people get a positive test? Are airlines going to allow people to rebook their flights?

QUEST: Yes --

KINKADE: How are they going to respond?

QUEST: Yes, I'm not worried so much about that. The positive test -- the airlines have been very accommodative, very much so, allowing people to

book certainly on the basis of a positive test, that will be the case. The problem is of course where are you going to go? Where are you going to



QUEST: If you're already on holiday, will the hotel let you stay there? Are they going to charge you the rack rate if you've certainly got to stay

there over new year's eve? All those sorts of issues. Let me give you a real-live test, I know time is short. Real live test. Tomorrow night, I fly

to Bangkok for "QUEST WORLD OF WONDER",

I've had to have a 48-hour PCR test, cost $175. I got the result this morning. I'm then going to Dubai, I'll need another PCR test, that will be

another 100 bucks. Then go on to London, no test needed for London to go in, but I need a day two which used to be antigen is now PCR, that's

another 70 pounds.

And ding, coming back to the United States because I'll be coming after these restriction come into place, I will need the 24-hour test. If it's

antigen lateral flow, I've got my box with me I will use, costs me $150 for six.

KINKADE: Yes, it's going to be expensive trip time for the holidays for anyone hoping to --

QUEST: Yes --

KINKADE: Be reunited, hopefully, those reunions can happen. Richard Quest for us --

QUEST: It can be done. Hey, look, my message though, Lynda, these restrictions seem forbidding, they seem difficult. But with a moment's

thought and a little bit of planning and, yes, a little bit of money, you get there.

KINKADE: You get there, let's hope so. Richard Quest, as always, good to have you.

QUEST: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, two major sport organizations and two very different views on the condition of a Chinese tennis star after she

came forward with a sexual assault accusation. We'll have an update on the controversy. And then later, the top U.S. and Russian diplomats meeting

face-to-face to discuss a situation that's causing growing alarm across the west.



KINKADE: Well, as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads, we're seeing new lockdowns and travel bans. But just what do we know about this variant?

Well, my next guest here will break down what we do and what we don't know about the Omicron variant, which was discovered in South Africa. Maria Van

Kerkhove is the World Health Organization's COVID-19 technical lead, she joins me now from Geneva, good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, it's obviously still early days since this new variant was detected. But the big question is, just how transmissible is it, how

dangerous is it? What do we know about it?

KERKHOVE: So, it is a newly classified variant of concern, this Omicron that was first reported from South Africa. We're learning more about this

every day. There are researchers in South Africa and around the world who are studying this variant. There are several things we're looking at.

Transmission is one of them, severity, and the impact on our counter- measures. What we know about this variant is that it has a large number of mutations.

And the reason that it is concerning is because some of those mutations we have a hint at what they may do in terms of how the virus will behave, how

this variant will behave. In terms of transmission, we do see an increasing rate of detections of Omicron, but we do see changes in surveillance. So,

we would expect to see that. What we don't know yet is if it has increased transmissibility compared to the Delta variant. There are some hints that

it may have increased transmissibility but it's still early days.


KERKHOVE: With regards to severity, we're also learning about if this virus, if this variant is causing more or less severe disease. And we

actually have reports of both. We do know that there's a range of symptoms and range of disease that people infected with Omicron have, including mild

disease all the way to severe disease. But we don't know yet the majority of those patients. We do see increased hospitalization rates across South

Africa, which could be due to the sheer fact that we have a larger number of cases, and more cases mean more deaths.

So the data on transmission and severity will unfold in the coming days. And we're also looking at the impact on counter-measures. Our diagnostics

work, they can detect this variant. Our therapeutics, we know will work, but there may be some impact on the monoclonal antibodies, for example. And

there isn't information yet on the impact of vaccines. That will take about two to four weeks for us to get some initial clues.

KINKADE: So still working out just how effective the current batch of vaccines are against this variant. But I have to ask you what impact the

travel bans are having right now in places like South Africa where this variant was detected and other African nations. Travel bans obviously

meaning that a lot of people can't get in and out of those countries.

What does it mean for getting samples of that variant out of the country to test? And also at getting shipments of vaccines into the country? Because

we know South Africa and many African nations, the vaccination rates are really low compared to wealthier countries.

KERKHOVE: Well, that's a good question. Travel bans have a lot of impacts on economies, on countries, on people. And we do see that having a travel

ban in some particular countries will have an impact on getting the samples out and also getting necessary supplies in. Travel bans -- I just heard

your previous segment.

You know, it can slow the spread, but it won't stop the spread. And right now, there have been more than 34 countries that have detected the Omicron

variant across all of W.H.O's six regions all over the world. And that will increase in the coming days as surveillance increases.

Travel bans won't replace good surveillance. They don't replace good public health measures. And I think what's really critically important, a lot of

people are concerned about this new variant, and that's important. We have to study it and understand its impact, but we have another variant of

concern, the Delta variant, that is raging around the world and is killing people unnecessarily because we have tools to stop it.

So, we need to beef up, increase what we're doing for Delta because that will help any way that Omicron unfolds. So get -- you know, make a stronger

attempt at controlling Delta, and that will have a positive impact on Omicron.

KINKADE: And we're already seeing modeling by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention that suggested the Omicron variant could be

responsible for over half of all coronavirus infections in wider Europe within the next few months. What are your concerns given that we're already

hearing that places in Germany where hospitals are not coping, patients are having to be transferred to other places in the country just to get



KERKHOVE: Well, exactly. I mean, if we have -- if this variant has increased transmissibility and it does out-compete Delta, that is the

dominant variant worldwide, then we will see increase in cases. And anywhere you have increase in cases, you're going to have increase in

hospitalizations. If the system is already overburdened, as you point out, this will result in more people dying because the systems just can't cope.

This is why not only do we need to increase vaccination coverage, and critically among those who are most at risk, not just the entire

population, but people who are most at risk in all countries around the world. We also have to draw a transmission down, and that doesn't mean

lockdown, it means the simple use of tools like masks and distancing and improving ventilation, avoiding crowds. The holidays are coming up, and

this will increase our social mixing with our family and our friends and travel.

All of that will have an impact of how a virus spreads. So we have to drive transmission down as well as increase vaccination coverage to those who are

most at risk in every single country.

KINKADE: All right, we'll have to leave it there for now, but it's really good to get your perspective. Maria Van Kerkhove from the W.H.O. Health

Emergencies Program, good to have you with us.

KERKHOVE: Thanks for having me.

KINKADE: Still to come, we're going to speak to the former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown who is now the W.H.O. ambassador for Global Health

Financing. Just ahead on the show about how to vaccinate most of the world. Stay with us.


KINKADE: Welcome back, you're watching CNN, I'm Lynda Kinkade. Well, will the COVID vaccine stop the spread of the new variant? It's the question the

world wants answered right now. And scientists are trying to figure it out. The president of Moderna tells us that the Omicron variant is the first to

cause significant concern because of how many mutations it has. And here's the problem.

More of these variants are likely to keep popping up until most of us are vaccinated.


So far only about 25 percent of South Africa's population is fully vaccinated. And now Omicron is the dominant strain there. And it's even

worse in nearby countries.

Less than 8 percent of Africa's population is fully protected against the virus. Just look at the comparison to Asia, Europe or North America.

Joining me now live is the former British prime minister Gordon Brown, who is now serving as the World Health Organization's ambassador for global

health financing.

Great to have you with us.

GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Hello, Lynda. It's good to talk to you.

KINKADE: Certainly plenty to discuss today. But I want to start first on your comments regarding your criticism of the current U.K. prime minister,

over his response to the COVID crisis. You say his advisers should sit Boris Johnson down and acquaint him with some basic medical facts.

From your perspective, where is he failing?

BROWN: Well, the problem in Africa, he says, is low take-up, because people are resistant to taking up the vaccinations. But the bigger problem is the

lack of supply of vaccines.

And as I think you've been saying with your figures, only 3 percent of low- income countries have been fully vaccinated. Only 7 percent in Africa have been fully vaccinated. We set a target of 10 percent to be vaccinated by

the end of September and we failed.

We've got a target of 40 percent by the end of the year and we're not likely to succeed in that. So what we're going to do is speed up the flow

of vaccines, from the countries which have stockpiled them to the countries which need them. And we have got to do that for another reason.

There is a danger that millions of vaccines that are lying in the West are going to be wasted because they're going to pass their use-by date and

they're going to expire. Nobody wants to see waste.

Let's get these vaccines out to the people who need them as quickly as possible. And then we might be able to stop the spread of the disease and

stop new variants emerging.

KINKADE: You make some very good points there. I just want to point out that, according to the WHO, only one in four healthcare workers in Africa,

those on the front line, are vaccinated.

Do you find it baffling that, almost two years into this global pandemic, most wealthy countries are still treating this like a national issue --

shutting down borders, imposing travel restrictions and hoarding vaccines?

And as you point out, millions of vaccines are set to expire by the end of this year.

BROWN: So these are millions of health workers who are risking their lives to save lives. But we've got a vaccine. It's available but we haven't got

it to them. Now that's a failure of coordination.

And what happened at the outset was that the G20 countries, the richest countries, overordered and are oversupplied with vaccines. And they've been

too slow to release them.

So America promised that it would give a billion vaccines to the poorest countries but the vaccines are needed now. And only 25 percent of that

order has been met.

In Britain's case it's only 11 percent; European Union, 19 percent. So we should be getting the vaccines out far more quickly. We are producing 1.5

billion vaccines a month. So there is supply. We're just not distributing it fairly enough.

And the problem is, it comes back to haunt us because, if these diseases spread with new variants, they will come back to bite all of us, even the

fully vaccinated in the West. And that's why we've got to act, not just to get the vaccines out but to get them out urgently, so we can prevent more

people seeing the disease spread in their countries.

KINKADE: Exactly, this pandemic will continue. But in the interim, many countries like South Africa and like some of the neighboring countries are

on this red list, banned from traveling to other countries like the U.K. But 89 percent of people there remain unvaccinated. And no doubt these bans

are going to hurt their local economies as well.

BROWN: Well, they're depending a lot on the recovery of tourism. But you can understand that countries are reluctant to have people coming in and

out where they know that the variant is spreading.

And the real answer to that is to say, look, if we're going to have a ban on travel, we're going to help you also to give you the vaccines that will

allow you to be able to be free of this virus as soon as possible.

The World Health Organization is predicting, I'm afraid, that there will be 200 million more cases in the next year. So we've had 260 million. We think

we're on a downward slide in the West.

But actually we are only just over halfway through this, if there are to be 200 million more cases. So we've got to act more quickly. We've had 5

million deaths already. There is a prediction there could be 5 million more deaths.


BROWN: Now to avoid that we need vaccination. We also need testing, by the way. And most of the testing is being done in the richest countries and

very little in the poorest countries.

So it's very difficult to pick up and to detect the disease if you don't have testing equipment to know who has been infected and who has not been

infected. We've got to do more, not only on vaccines but on testing equipment, too.

KINKADE: Yes, we need to know where these new variants are emerging. I also want to ask you about the WHO, this week agreeing to draft a convention or

an agreement to improve how the world responds to pandemics in the future.

What is that likely to include?

And how could that help future generations?

BROWN: We've really got to do this because we've learned so many lessons from our failure to coordinate and to work closely together. And we've had

vaccine nationalism, medical protectionism. And we've really got to recognize that nobody's safe until everybody's safe.

So first of all, we need to have better early warning systems. We know that we were too slow in getting action, both in the country, China, where it

started, but also around the world. And we need a flow of information that really didn't happen quickly enough.

Secondly, we need to have reserves of supplies. We were too slow to get the ventilators, to get the equipment to countries that were in desperate short

supply. And we could build up reserves.

And certainly, we need to fund the global preparedness so that we can prevent future pandemics. And we've yet to get an agreement on the fair

sharing of the cost so that there can be global action immediately, whenever there's a crisis.

It's too late sometimes when you go around with a begging ball a few months later. You really should have the funding available to get things done

immediately; so what I call a pandemic nonproliferation treaty, to stop the proliferation of pandemics, is something that is really urgently needed, if

we are to be better prepared than we were in the past.

KINKADE: Absolutely. Gordon Brown, former British prime minister and the WHO ambassador for global health financing, a pleasure having you on the

show. Thank you very much.

BROWN: Lynda, thank you.

KINKADE: Well, the head of the Women's Tennis Association tells CNN that he's not convinced by the International Olympic Committee's reported

conversations with Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai.

Steve Simon says the IOC's video calls have been, quote, "very much orchestrated."

It's the latest development in an increasingly contentious standoff between two of the world's top sports organizations. Peng has been out of the

public eye since accusing a former top government official of sexual assault.

And the International Olympic Committee says they believe she's safe. But concerns remain, despite receiving another email, said to be from Peng.

CNN's Will Ripley has the latest from Peng.



PENG SHUAI, CHINESE TENNIS STAR (through translator): I shouldn't have come into this world but I don't have the courage to die.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The painful words of Peng Shuai, Chinese tennis star, three-time Olympian, sexual assault accuser.

PENG (through translator): Why did you have to come back to me, take me to your home, to force me to have sex with you?

I couldn't describe how disgusted I was.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Those allegations against a retired senior Communist Party leader made one month ago on Chinese social media, censored by the

government, erased in less than 30 minutes.

The Women's Tennis Association suspending a lucrative 10-year deal in China and Hong Kong, demanding a full investigation and direct communication with


STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: We are planning to suspend our events until such time that the Chinese authorities do the

appropriate thing.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The head of the WTA telling CNN, China's leaders left him no choice.

SIMON: I can only imagine the range of emotions and feelings that are likely going through Peng right now.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Two emails to the WTA supposedly from Peng walked back her accusations. The WTA not buying it, not backing down.

SOPHIE RICHARDSON, CHINA DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The WTA has really turned in an exemplary performance, essentially saying that her well-being

is more important than business.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The WTA's strong response in stark contrast to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC released this single photo of its

video call with Peng last month, an attempt to calm the controversy. The Beijing Winter Games right around the corner.


RIPLEY (voice-over): The IOC's longest serving member telling CNN, that call alone is proof enough that she's OK.

POUND: She's fine and she's not under any kind of coercion or confinement.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Chinese state media ignoring the story inside their country. Outside, tweeting updates and videos of Peng. Videos activists say

are almost certainly staged.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Aimed at a foreign audience to repair China's reputation ahead of the games.

One high-profile state propagandist tweeting, "The WTA is coercing Peng Shuai to support the West's attack."

China's "Global Times" tweeting, "The WTA's decision was based on fictitious information."

The foreign ministry in Beijing says China has always been firmly opposed any act that politicizes sports.

Some of the world's most famous athletes praising the WTA for not staying silent.

Who is staying silent about Peng?

Olympic partner sponsors.

RICK BURTON, PROFESSOR OF SPORT MANAGEMENT, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: And they are aware that taking a stance against an individual from China or against

the country itself can have damaging repercussions.

RIPLEY (voice-over): With billions of dollars at stake --

PENG (through translator): I feel like a walking corpse.

RIPLEY (voice-over): -- Peng Shuai's call for help goes largely unanswered -- Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


KINKADE: Still to come tonight, we'll show you part of Alec Baldwin's emotional interview, his first since the tragic shooting on the movie set,

"Rust." He says he never pulled the trigger.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

The U.S. is warning Russia of severe costs and consequences if it attempts further military aggression against Ukraine. Secretary of state Antony

Blinken says he delivered that message in person today to foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

No breakthrough was achieved at their meeting in Sweden. But one thing they did agree on was the need for even higher-level talks. CNN's Alex Marquardt

is in Stockholm with more.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This highly anticipated sit-down was serious and sober, according to secretary of state

Antony Blinken.

It did not, however, result in any sort of concrete agreement that would lead to the immediate de-escalation of this crisis between Russia and

Ukraine. Nor did Secretary Blinken lay out explicitly what these serious consequences would be for Russia, should they decide to invade Ukraine.

Blinken did tell the Russians, both before this meeting and in it, that there would be serious costs from the U.S. and its allies if Russia decides

to go ahead with military action. So the goal for now is to keep these diplomatic discussions going in the coming days.


MARQUARDT: And Blinken said today that there could be a call soon between presidents Biden and Putin. Take a listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Foreign minister Lavrov and I had candid exchanges on our different perspectives. We agreed to report those

back to our presidents, whom they have the opportunity to speak directly in the near future.

It's now on Russia to de-escalate the current tensions by reversing the recent troop buildup, returning forces to normal peacetime positions and

refraining from further intimidation and attempts to destabilize Ukraine.


MARQUARDT: So the two sides will continue to talk. A senior State Department official told reporters that there would be intense diplomacy in

the coming days with the hope that eventually Russia would pull back its forces and agree to a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine.

For its part, Russia says that it is acting in self-defense and that its security is threatened, as NATO moves eastwards toward its border. Now

Blinken has said that it is not clear whether Russia has made up its mind whether to invade Ukraine or not but that it has the capacity to do so in

short order.

What the U.S. and NATO are seeing right now as far as Russian movements and troop buildup is very similar to what they saw back in 2014, when Russia

also put troops along the Ukrainian border and then invaded Ukraine, annexing Crimea -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, Stockholm.


KINKADE: We are getting more details about the tragic incident that killed Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography for the movie, "Rust." Actor

Alec Baldwin, who was starring in the movie and producing it, says he did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed her. He said that while

speaking to ABC News in his sit-down interview since that incident in October.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST (voice-over): It wasn't in the script for the trigger to be pulled.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR (voice-over): Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): So you never pulled the trigger?

BALDWIN (voice-over): No, no. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger (INAUDIBLE).

She was someone who was loved by everyone who worked with and liked by everyone who worked with and admired.


KINKADE: An attorney for the movie's assistant director says her client backs that up, that Baldwin never pulled the trigger. Well, CNN's Lucy

Kafanov joins me now.

Lucy, I'm just wondering how crew members are all reacting to that emotional interview.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's becoming something of a he said/she said. The revelation from Alec Baldwin that he did not pull the

trigger is being disputed by at least one crew member, the head lighting technician for "Rust."

He's also suing Baldwin and others claiming that the lethal bullet almost hit him and that he suffered severe emotional stress because of that death

on set. His lawyer issuing a statement to CNN, blasting Mr. Baldwin's comments saying, and I quote, "Guns only fire when someone pulls the

trigger or if someone pulls the hammer back and lets it go.

"Either way the gun was in Mr. Baldwin's hands when it fired. The bullet and he bears responsibility for the harm done. As the producer and actor on

the "Rust" set, he knew or should've known all of the corners that were cut on safety and about all of the serious safety violations occurring on a

regular basis on his film."

Now it's important to note, that the preview clip did not include the actor's explanation for how the gun went off. Investigators say that he was

in costume on set; he was practicing a cross-draw when that deadly shot was fired.

We know from investigators that two other people had handled the loaded gun before it discharged. Those are the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed,

as well as the assistant director, Dave Halls.

Halls' attorney also spoke to CNN today, corroborating what we heard from Alec Baldwin.

She said, and I quote, "Halls told me, from the first time we met, that he did not see Baldwin pull the trigger. He said to me, 'Baldwin appeared to

be holding the gun in a safe manner, like you were supposed to on set.' Halls told me that Baldwin did not have his finger on the trigger."

KINKADE: So I am wondering what the latest is on the investigation, then.

What are authorities telling you?

KAFANOV: Well, look, the focus on the investigation right now is how those live rounds ended up on the set. Now according to an affidavit released

earlier this week, investigators were looking into whether a man named Seth Kenney, who was supposed to supply the "Rust" production with firearms and

blanks and dummy bullets, whether he may have also given ammunition to the production.

A search warrant was actually issued for his Albuquerque store in Minnesota earlier this week. Court document sshow that authorities did find

additional suspected live 45 millimeter rounds.

According to a court document released on Wednesday, they also found documents related to the movie set, "Rust." Now Mr. Kenney has not been

charged with any wrongdoing. CNN has reached out for him to comment. And there's so many unanswered questions at this stage.


KAFANOV: We are hoping to get a little bit more information from Alec Baldwin's point of view when that full interview on ABC airs later this


KINKADE: Yes, I'm sure a lot of people will be watching that. Lucy Kafanov, good to have you with us. Thanks very much.

Well, a shocking, allegedly anti-Semitic incident in London is drawing fierce condemnation from the prime minister and the city's mayor.


KINKADE (voice-over): Take a look at these stills from the video posed posted on social media, that appears to show a mob of men harassing and

threatening a bus full of Jewish teenagers Monday night on Oxford Street. The teens were celebrating hanukkah when the mob began spitting on the bus,

banging on the windows and making obscene gestures.

Police are treating it as a hate crime and asking the public to help identify the three men in the pictures. But so far, they've made no



KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, the latest in Meghan Markle's long- fought privacy battle with the British tabloids and why she says her court victory is "not just for me."




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Well, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, is calling for a reshaping of the tabloid industry. It comes as she wins the latest court battle with the

publisher of the British newspaper, "The Mail on Sunday."

Markle sued in 2018 over the publication of a letter she sent to her father. The duchess wrote in a statement that, "This is a victory not just

for me but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what's right."

Well, let's bring in CNN's royal correspondent, Max Foster, who joins us now live from London.

Good to have you with us, Max. So this case has gone on for nearly three years. And Markle says the victory is a win for the greater good.

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: She did. So the judge basically held up a previous decision from a judge that the duchess had a reasonable

expectation of privacy in the contents of that letter.

These contents were personal, private, not matters of legitimate public interest. What the judge was saying was it might have been legitimate to

publish part of the letter. You could argue that, under the associated newspaper's case, the arguments were presented in this case.

But they weren't justified in publishing the whole letter because Meghan had a right to privacy to that letter. And, as you say, this was seen as a

victory for the Duchess of Sussex.


FOSTER: As soon as the result came through, I got this longer statement from the Duchess of Sussex saying that she hopes that this will help

reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel and profits from the lies and pain that they create.

She says these harmful practices don't happen once in a blue moon; they're a daily fail that divide us and we all deserve better.

Now "daily fail" is a rather derogatory term that is used for the "Daily Mail." So there was a lot of commentary on that on Twitter today. But it's

certainly seen as a triumph for the Duchess of Sussex, though it might not be entirely over.

KINKADE: I want to ask you what this means for the associated newspaper, the owner of the "Daily Mail."

FOSTER: Well, they came out with a statement later on, saying we are very disappointed by the court. It's our strong view that judgment should be

given only on the basis of evidence tested at trial.

Of course, this didn't end up going to trial; it stopped before that. And not on a summary basis in a heavily contested case before even disclosure

or documents were put out there.

They're saying they are questioning the duchess' credibility here and there's more evidence to come, which would have justified their case. So

that's why they are saying we are considering an appeal to the supreme court in the United Kingdom, which is the highest court in the land.

So we'll wait to see whether or not that happens. I think because, as you say, this has been going on for so long, Meghan's quite keen to see this

for another day in court. I can't speak for her but she's not afraid of this going through the court process because she feels this is a bigger

battle she's fighting.

And she wants to win it, even at the highest court in the land, I'm sure.

KINKADE: And she certainly has had a lot of trouble with the tabloids over the years. So this may drag on for a few more years. Max Foster, good to

have you with us.

Well, Spotify has released its yearly list of most streamed artists and songs. It's telling you which streams have dominated the globe. The winners

may not be surprising. Olivia Rodrigo's "Driver's License" was the most streamed song in the world. The single was streamed more than 1 billion



And "Dynamite" by K-pop group BTS was Apple Music's most played song of the year, even though it failed to make Spotify's top five.

And for the second year in a row, rapper and singer Bad Bunny was Spotify's most streamed artist in the world, with more than 9 billion streams. He

beat out Taylor Swift, BTS and Drake for the top spot.

Plenty of good tunes to listen to. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Stay with CNN. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next.