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COVID Cases Rise Worldwide; Kidnapped Schoolgirls in Nigeria Now Back Home; Vaccinations Working in Britain; President Biden Under Pressure Over Campaign Promises; President Biden Met with Mexico's President; Manufacturers Racing to Produce Millions Of Vaccine; Papal Visit to Iraq, He's First Trip Outside Italy Since Coronavirus Pandemic; Regional Foreign Ministers to Pressure Myanmar Junta; Pledges from Donor Conference Disappointing; Stakes High in Landmark Hong Kong Hearing; When Politics and Sports Collide; Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rising After Steep Drop; Harry and Meghan Speak To Oprah. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 2, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls are now free days after being kidnapped at gunpoint.

Health officials from the U.S. to the U.K. are pleading with people to keep up their mask-wearing and social distancing as global COVID cases rise for the first time in seven weeks.

The U.S. president met virtually with his Mexican counterpart as Joe Biden faces growing pressure when it comes to immigration policy.

Good to have you with us.

Well, global COVID-19 cases are on the rise for the first time in seven weeks. According to the World Health Organization, increases were reported in four of six regions, the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean.

On Monday, the WHO director-general explained why it's important for mitigation efforts to continue and for people to remain vigilant.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We are working to better understand these increases in transmission. Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures. Continued circulation of variants, and people letting down their guard.


CHURCH (on camera): And this comes as Johnson and Johnson began the rollout of its much anticipated COVID vaccine across the U.S. Monday. Just hours from now the first shots could be administered.

CNN's Nick Watt has more.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The first doses of the Johnson & Johnson's vaccine have shipped. Three vaccines are now out there in the mix.

MARCELLA NUNEZ-SMITH, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 EQUITY TASK FORCE: This is all part of very, very good news. All three vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing what we care about most, and that's very serious illness and death.

WATT: Plus, Johnson & Johnson single dose and does not need deep freeze storage.

PAUL STOFFELS, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, JOHNSON & JOHNSON: We'll have 20 million in March and 100 million by June, and hopefully by the summer contributing a lot to vaccinating to all of the United States.

WATT: But issues remain.

JEFF ZIENTS, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE: Our scheduling remains for far too many people too frustrating, and we need to make it better.

WATT: From today, teachers in Connecticut, Mississippi, and Louisiana are eligible for vaccination. Educators now on the list in 31 states, and Washington, D.C. Not yet in Massachusetts where today roller rinks and theaters can reopen at half capacity.

UNKNOWN: It's a good step in the right direction, that's for sure.

WATT: But let's hold off on the high fives.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is really risky to say it's over, we are on the way out, let's pull back. Just look historically at the late winter or early spring of 2020, of December of 2020 when we started to pull back prematurely, we saw the rebound.

WATT: Average new case counts have been falling sharply for weeks, but --

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: A recent decline appear to be stalling. Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.

WATT: On average, around 2,000 Americans are still dying from this disease every day. NUNEZ-SMITH: Get vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you.

Protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19.


WATT (on camera): Monday, it was 11 weeks exactly since the first American in America got a vaccine doses. Current situation about 100 million doses have been distributed across the country, about 10 percent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated double dosed. This single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should change the landscape.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

CHURCH: Nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria on Friday have been rescued. The girls were taken by gunmen who raided their school in northwestern Nigeria, according to high-ranking government officials.


The girl's abduction is the latest in a string of similar kidnapping cases in Nigeria.

So, let's bring in CNN's Stephanie Busari, she joins us live from Lagos. Good to see you, Stephanie.

Two hundred seventy-nine kidnapped schoolgirls thankfully rescued and safely returned. What more are you learning about this? Because kidnappings like this well, they don't always end this well.

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN.COM SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA: That's true. Good morning, Rosemary. The kidnapping landscape has changed somewhat since the Chibok girls, the most kind of infamous case of kidnapping that happened in 2014. And that landscape has changed considerably. They were taken away for years before we really heard much about them.

But recently, what we are seeing is a kind of enterprise, if you like. A kidnapping for ransom industry where gunmen raid a school, they walk in, cut away hundreds of students, sometimes, in some cases, their teachers. And weeks or even days later, they are freed. And we know that money has changed hands.

And President Buhari himself came out last week to urge state governors not to participate in this kidnapping for ransom, not to endanger lives by paying money in d these kinds of cases. Now what the state governor's aide in this particular case is telling me, is that no ransom was paid. He's quite categoric about that.

I spoke to him in the last 10 or 15 minutes, saying that no ransom was paid, that Governor Bello Matawalle of this state, Zamfara State has been talking to repentant bandits, as he calls them. And they negotiated the release of these girls. And the girls themselves are on a good condition, we hear. So that's the kind of latest that we are hearing on that situation now, Rosemary. CHURCH: And Stephanie, I know there is not a lot of information

surrounding this, but are you learning more about how these kids were kidnapped, and of course, how they are treated, you say they are in good condition, but talk to us about that if you know any more?

BUSARI: Sure. So, the governor's aide also told me that they are currently at the governor's launch, they were receiving medical treatment and psychological support. They will need it. It must have been a terrifying ordeal. They're said that they were treated in a fairly good -- they were given fairly good treatment by the kidnappers. They were given food but they had no beds, nowhere to sleep. They had to walk bare fear for hours. And one them described it as the worst experience of their lives. Rosemary?

CHURCH (on camera): All right. Stephanie Busari joining us live from Lagos. And thankfully this all ended well. Thanks for bringing up to date on that situation.

All right. I want to go back now to the COVID-19 pandemic, and British health officials say their vaccination program is working against the virus. According to recent data from public health England, a single shot of either the Oxford AstraZeneca or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines appears to be more than 80 percent effective at preventing hospitalization in the elderly.

And as you can see, cases have been falling in recent weeks, but health experts are warning people not to ignore the risks that still remain.


JONATHAN VAN-TAM, U.K. DEPUTY CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Do not wreck this now. It is too early to relax. Just continue to maintain discipline and hang on, just a few more months. Do not wreck this now. We are so close. I do worry that people think it's all over. The more they think that when it's not, the greater the headwind they are going to give to the vaccine program, and the more at risk will become the milestones set on the road map.

You know, it's just a collective effort. It is actually up to us whether we can hold our nerve and see this through properly to the end of the roadmap or whether we are going to kind of, you know, fall at the last furlough.


CHURCH (on camera): And France is making it easier for elder adults in that country to get vaccinated. They have just approved using the AstraZeneca vaccine in adults 65 to 75 years old with serious health conditions. And this follows a previous warning from the government that only people under the age of 65 should get the AstraZeneca shot. That was due largely to a lack of clinical data on its efficacy in older people. Adults over the age of 75 will continue to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. And several variants of COVID-19 have been documented around the world

and they raised concerns about how effective current vaccines are at fighting them.


The CEO of BioNTech told CNN it will take another six to eight weeks to get real world data that shows just how effective his vaccine is against the variant first identified in South Africa.

And for more on this, we want to bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He spoke exclusively with BioNTech's CEO. Good to see you, Fred. So, what were you told about this vaccine by the CEO?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hi there, Rosemary. Well, he was very optimistic as far as these variants are concerned. Essentially, what the CEO of BioNTech told me, he said look, there's two main concerns with these variants. On the one hand, that they might be able to spread faster. And there he says the only solution to that is for countries to really step up their vaccination campaign.

And he also, by the way said that he believes that all doses that are received by governments now should also be administered as fast as possible. None should be held back, as of course, some governments around the world are doing.

But he said the second concern is that some of these variants might be able to evade the efficacy of vaccines like the ones from BioNTech like others as well. But he did say that he believes that so far, from what he has seen from the performance of the BioNTech vaccine that most variants will be combatted by it. Let's hear to him to what he had to say.


UGUR SAHIN, CEO, BIONTECH: The first concern is, for example, the concern related to variants like the U.K. variant, which is spreading faster. And this is of course, a relevant concern. But there is also a second concern that the variants could escape immune response. The second concern is relative concern. I'm not too much concerned about that. We believe particularly that mRNA vaccines and BioNTech and this is the 162b2 is designed in a way which is -- which is very robust against variants.

PLEITGEN: To what extent do you think a single dose strategy, vaccinating everyone as fast as possible, is something that could be possible or at least stretching out the amount of time between the first and second dose? Is that something that you think is feasible and hoe feasible do you think it is?

SAHIN: So, first of all, it is important that indeed the vaccination campaigns go as fast as possible. And the first attache (Ph) for that it would be not to store the second dose, but really ensure that everyone, that we don't have vaccines in the freezer but vaccines really being used. PLEITGEN: At what point do you think that it could be available to

the entire population?

SAHIN: We have already vaccinated children at the age of 12 to 15 years. We are going to start clinical trials in children ages 5 to 11 years and even younger than five years already in 2021. So, this is important also to support school openings.


PLEITGEN (on camera): One of the other things, Rosemary, as far as these variants are concerned that BioNTech is also thinking about is a possible third booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, possibly to give people just so much of an immune response they would simply be immune against all variants of the novel coronavirus.

Again, that is something that BioNTech currently is looking into as well. But one of the interesting things that we found is that these vaccines they are all the time, really, under new development and new evaluation.

One of the things that BioNTech says they are working on right now is to work on a new formulation of the vaccine to make it storable in a refrigerator temperature rather than freezer temperatures. That of course would be very, very important to get it out, especially to rural places, they make it easier to store and of course, make it easier to transport as well. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. Also, fascinating when he was talking about getting as many shots in arms as possible, worry about that second one a little later, because I think he has changed his stance on that.

But Frederik Pleitgen, many thanks bringing us the report from Berlin. I appreciate it.

Slovakia is buying two million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine as it faces one of the worst COVID death rates in the world. The prime minister watched as the first batches arrived on Monday. Slovakia is just the second European Union country to approve the shot. Its neighbor Hungary began using Sputnik last month even though the vaccine lacks approval for emergency use in the E.U. The head of Russia's direct investment fund says more and more European countries want the vaccine.

Well, the White House is facing backlash. Why critics say President Biden is failing to live up to his campaign promises while letting a key ally get away with murder.

Plus, Nicolas Sarkozy's fall from grace. The former French president sentenced to prison for corruption in an historic court ruling. Back with that in just a moment.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH (on camera): U.S. President Joe Biden is working to make good on his campaign promise to pass a COVID relief bill for the millions of Americans struggling right now, but there is a different campaign promise that Mr. Biden is falling short on.

Our Jeff Zeleny explains.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At the White House tonight, President Biden intensifying his efforts to push his signature COVID relief bill through yet another hurdle in Congress. After returning from a weekend at his home in Delaware, the president meeting virtually with nine Democratic senators whose votes he needs, along with all Senate Democrats to pass the $1.9 trillion package.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We reserved time in his schedule to ensure that he can be engaged, roll up his sleeves and be personally involved in making phone calls, having more Zoom meetings, potentially having people here to the Oval Office to get this across the finish line.

ZELENY: With some benefits to Americans expiring on March 14th, the clock is ticking for Biden to make good on his pledge. There is no room for error in the closely divided Senate after the House narrowly passed the measure over the weekend with no Republican votes.

Tonight, progressives are seething over the $15 federal minimum wage being stripped out of the Senate version, after the parliamentarian ruled it did not meet the strict requirement to include in a budget bill.

Twenty-three congressional Democrats sent a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to override the decision, and keep their campaign promise of raising the minimum wage. The White House says it's committed to doing so, but not in the COVID bill.

Progressives don't understand this, in some respect they're like, why not fight for this? So why is the White House not more aggressively challenging that? And sending the vice president to try and potentially overrule that with a vote?

PSAKI: The decision for a vice -- for the vice president to vote to overrule, or to take a step to overrule is not a simple decision. The president and the vice president both respect the history of the Senate. They have both formally served in the Senate, and that's not inaction we intend to take.

ZELENY: It's the first legislative test for the White House. Maintain support for moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona who do not support the $15 federal minimum wage, without alienating other Democrats who do.

Tonight, the White House also still reconciling Biden's tough talk on the campaign trail with his decision as president to stop well short of punishing the Saudi crown prince for his role in the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We will going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.

ZELENY: How does this come anywhere close to his pledge to Americans in November of 2019 at that debate?


PSAKI: The president has been clear to his team, and he's been clearly publicly, that the relationship is not going to look like what it looks like in the past.

ZELENY: The White House insisted the relationship with Saudi Arabia would be recalibrated, but the move underscored how Biden's advisors see the partnership with a key Arab ally as too critical to break.

Meanwhile, as former President Donald Trump delivered a blistering assessment of the Biden administration at his weekend speech at CPAC, the Biden White House declined to take the bait.

PSAKI: I think we are going to spend more of our time focused on communicating about our agenda for the American people than responding to criticism from the former president.


ZELENY (on camera): But the policies of the Trump administration are indeed still hanging over this White House, particularly on immigration. President Biden meeting virtually with the president of Mexico in a meeting on Monday evening, talking about immigration, the borders, and a variety of other issues.

Also, one topic at hand, is the coronavirus. The Mexican government is asking the U.S. for some of its vaccine, the White House is saying its priority is on vaccinating those in the United States.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH (on camera): And there was no mention of sharing vaccines in a joint statement released after that meeting between Mr. Biden and the president of Mexico. The two leaders are looking for something of a fresh start after Mexico's president did not initially, recognize Biden's victory in the election.

In their talks Monday, both presidents stressed the importance of a strong relationship between their two countries.


BIDEN: The United States and Mexico are stronger when we stand together. There is a long and complicated history between our nations. They haven't always been perfect neighbors with one another, but we have seen over and over again the power and the purpose, when we cooperate, we're safer when we work together. ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator):

It is important that we base our good relationships on constant dialogue, periodic dialogue. I know our relations in the future will be even better. We are united by 3,180 kilometers of border. But we are not only united by geography. We are also united by our economies, our trade, our history, and our friendship.


CHURCH (on camera): Joining me now is CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin. He is also a foreign policy columnist for the Washington Post and author of "Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the 21st Century." Great to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, President Biden had a virtual meeting with Mexico's president Monday in the midst of growing pressure to find a workable immigration policy. Biden has upset liberal Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other for very different reasons. Where's all this going?

ROGIN: Well it's no secret that the relationship between the new American and the existing Mexican president started off in a very bad place. The Mexican president didn't acknowledge Biden's victory until after the January 6th riots at the capital, and actually, he had a much closer friendship with President Trump than would be widely expected.

And one of the areas that they actually cooperated on was immigration. And now that the Biden administration is trying to revamp the U.S. immigration policy, they are finding it more difficult than when they had talk about it in the campaign, and they're finding that they need Mexican government help.

And that has caused and led to his meeting today, where both sides are promising to work together on the problem. But there are no easy solutions. Already the border is getting more crowded. The Biden's policy -- Biden administration's policy of letting in some migrants but not returning others has pleased nobody, and right now, they need the Mexican government to help sort them out, to keep people from getting to that U.S.-Mexico border.

And the Mexican government needs something from the U.S. It needs more vaccine. So perhaps there is a deal to be made.

CHURCH: Yes, you mentioned that Mexico's President Lopez Obrador he did ask for help with vaccines, but received a resounding no, not until all Americans are vaccinated, or at least those who want it. This pandemic has made all leaders focused first on their own population and then other nations. What other solution is there?

ROGIN: Well, study show that vaccine nationalism or the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries actually slows the world's recovery, and it's actually much more in the interest of vaccine having countries to give vaccines to countries that don't have it. [03:24:52]

Nevertheless, there is a hoarding going on. And I think that as more and more vaccine comes on to the market, you'll see more equality and more distribution. But right now, that's something that the Biden administration is reluctant to do in the face of domestic political pressure.

But it is something that is on the table. And the Biden administration officials have said it's something that they would consider contributing to. They are going to have something they want from the Mexican side as well in exchange.

CHURCH: Right. OK. So, the Biden administration has had to hit the ground running on other foreign issues as well, foreign policy issues. The White House now facing considerable backlash for not sufficiently punishing the Saudi crown prince for his direct role in the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On the campaign trail, Biden said he would make Saudi Arabia pay the price and make them a pariah. That is clearly not going to happen? Why, and what are the likely consequences of not doing what he pledged to do?

ROGIN: Well, it seems that the Biden administration's approach, which is to do release the intelligence report naming Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for the murder, but without promising him directly has pleased nobody, and has fallen short of their own promises in the campaign to make Saudi Arabia into, quote, "the pariah state" that Biden said it is.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of feeling inside Washington that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is too valuable to throw away altogether. As you know, Jamal Khashoggi was a contributing columnist for the Washington Post where I work. Our paper has been very forceful and calling for more accountability, and more justice for the perpetrators, including accountability and justice for the crown prince.

It's difficult to sanction the crown prince especially as he may become the head of state at any moment. Nevertheless, as long as we have this gap between the accusations and actual price to pay, the feeling in Washington will remain that justice for Jamal Khashoggi has not been served, and that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, is getting away with murder.

CHURCH: Josh Rogin, many thanks. I appreciate it.

ROGIN: Any time.

CHURCH: Well former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges. A judge says he can serve a year of house arrest instead. Sarkozy was convicted of trying to obtain secret information on a probe into his campaign finances. He had been eyeing a political comeback for next year's presidential election. Pundits believe that with no clear leader on the right, Sarkozy had a

shot at being the French republican candidate.

And still to come here on CNN Newsroom, we look at major concerns surrounding the pope's trip to Iraq on Friday. Live reports from Rome and Baghdad when we come back.

Plus, humanitarian aid for Yemen is falling far short of what's needed. Why the head of the U.N. warns it could be a death sentence for millions of people.



CHURCH (on camera): Welcome back everyone. Well, health experts are calling the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a real game- changer. It requires only one dose, and does not need to be kept in deep freeze storage. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, gives us a look inside the manufacturing process.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have a plan to roll it out as quickly as Johnson and Johnson can make it.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): But the truth is, no matter how fast they go, it's never going to feel fast enough.

The number, out of the gate, meaning right after an authorization will be closer to 10 million, now we are hearing four million, how does the public to make sense of that?

SEAN KIRK, MANUFACTURING AND TECHNICAL OPERATIONS EMERGENT BIOSOULTIONS: We don't ultimately control the distribution and the volumes of the vaccines in final bottle from, we are playing that middle step.

GUPTA: Making a new vaccine by the millions, was always going to be an impressive feat.

John Kirk, is the executive vice president of manufacturing, and technical operations, at Emergent Biosolutions. And right now, he feels the weight of the world is on his shoulders.

KIRK: You can't sacrifice safety and quality, for speed.

GUPTA: And it is his job to strike that balance.

What is the biggest hurdle than to scaling up?

KIRK: The bottleneck is often time, and these things just don't happen overnight. It can be a multi year timeframe that we have undertaken, unfortunately we've been able to compress that down. GUPTA: Emergent Biosolutions is one of Johnsons & Johnsons

manufacturing partners, and its sprawling 112,000 square foot facility in Baltimore, it plays the key role of actually producing the viral vectors for the vaccine. Basically, the part that makes it work.

What's limits the capacity here?

KIRK: We are dependent upon a variety of different critical suppliers who also are routing to the cause, so the entirety of this industrial orchestration if you will is very significant and it's very complex.

GUPTA: For starters, they have to grow the tissue cultures in these large reactors, so they are dealing with actual living organisms. They have to ensure they have all the proper nutrients they need to grow, and then, go through the purification steps to remove any debris.

KIRK: The manufacturing of biologic vaccine process is like these typically takes several weeks, upwards of a month. What's important to note is that we are in a cadence, which means we don't wait for a single lot to move all the way through before we initiate another lot.

GUPTA: After all that. The newly manufactured vaccine is frozen, and shipped, more than 600 miles to another company, Catalent. That's in Bloomington, Indiana. What happens there? Feel and finish. And then, every single vile is visually inspected, hundreds per minute will pass through this process. It is fast. A breakneck speed, Kirk says. But again, in the middle of the pandemic, nothing is fast enough.

KIRK: We expect to reach the maximum of that commercial cadence, but we will always look for opportunities to further refine a partnership with our customers to tease out as many doses as possible.

GUPTA: When they say 1 billion doses potentially by the end of 2021, that number sounds reasonable to you by based on what you know?

KIRK: Suffice to say, we have got a little bit farther to go to get there. But that is all according to the plan and contracts that we have with Johnson & Johnson.

GUPTA: Every dose, every vile, can still make a difference for billions of people around the world, waiting for their shot at protection. Dr. Sanjayan Gupta, CNN, reporting.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, Pope Francis is determined to visit Iraq on Friday, despite threat from COVID-19 and dangers of terrorism. It will be his first trip outside of Italy since the global pandemic started, and the first ever papal visit to Iraq. The Vatican says the Pope's four-day includes multiple stops, and is meant to promote peace, diversity, and tolerance.

But some fear the nation's Christian populations will come out in large numbers to see him, and there are worries that his appearances could become COVID superspreader events. Well, CNN's Delia Gallagher is covering this story from Rome, and our Ben Wedeman is in Baghdad, and they both join us now. Welcome.

So, Delia, let's start with you. This historic four-day papal trip to Iraq, it is a risky. And at a time when Iraq is dealing with increasing COVID cases, why is Pope Francis was so determined to do this, in the midst of a pandemic, and with security risks involved?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, that's right, Rosemary. I mean, I think there are a couple of reasons why the pope is willing to risk this trip right now. One of them is certainly the huge, historical importance of Iraq for the world's religions. A lot of people think of Iraq in terms of its more modern history, but of course, Iraq is also the place where it is considered that the Father Abrahim of the world's religion was born.


Abraham being said to be the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is there for a place of huge religious importance and a place where many popes, especially John Paul II, before Pope Francis, wanted to go. So that makes the trip take on really important dimensions for the Vatican, and for the pope.

Of course, he is also expected to meet with the Ayatollah, Al-Sistani, he is the head of the Shia Muslims. That is a very important meeting for Pope Francis in his agenda with Islam, especially considering that he ahs already met with the Grand Imam al-Tayyeb of the Sunni Muslim's. So, this is part of his agenda of trying to talk to both branches of Islam and bring them together with Christianity in an effort for peace.

There is also the final reason which is the pope himself has mentioned that he considers himself a pastor towards suffering people that is particularly the Christians in Iraq, of course. Its ancient Christian community that has fled in the last decades, because of war.

And the pope wants to go there to support the remaining Christians that are there, but also encourage those who have fled to come back. So, there are a number of levels for why this trip is so important to the pope, and why he is willing to risk it at this time, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Alright. Thanks for that, Delia. Ben Iraq is preparing to welcome the pope, but will authorities there be able to meet the multitude of security in COVID-19 challenges involved in doing this?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): They are certainly doing their best at this point, Rosemary. What we have seen is that there is an intention, for instance, to impose a 24 hour curfew for the three-day season in Baghdad to make sure that there aren't large crowds in the street, and all of the events that are planned are being planned to minimize the number of people there to maintain social distancing.

And in terms of the security threats, this is very much. Iraq is a security state. Where almost everything you do involved some form of security screening, you are being checked by a metal detector, and, therefore, all of those that experience in capacities is going to kick in when the pope comes.

The real concern, of course, is COVID. Keep in mind, for instance, that the number of daily cases of new cases of COVID being reported as of day, is more than three times what it was exactly one month ago. So, the concern is that even though there is going to be a real attempt to keep people from coming out in large crowds, the worry is that this could be a superspreader events.

And, also, having been in Iraq now for almost a week, what we have seen is that Iraq is a bit like the rest of the world was, a year ago, before there were lockdowns, before really COVID became something that ruled our lives. Perhaps one, or two, in every 15 people are wearing masks. Social distancing, it seems to be a concept that has not really sunk in.

And one of the reasons for this is, Rosemary, you have to keep in mind, Iraq's history over the last 40 years. First, there was the Iran-Iraq war, where it leads half million people were killed, and then, there was the Kuwait war. The sanctions, the U.S.-led invasion, the chaos that followed.

And then, the war against ISIS. As many as 1.7 million people have been killed in unnatural circumstances in Iraq, over the last 40 years. So, the 13,428 who are reported have died from COVID in the last year, seems like a relatively small number to these people, this country that really continues to suffer from PTSD. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Absolutely right. Delia Gallagher in Rome, Ben Wedeman in Baghdad, many thanks to you both. I appreciate it. Well, dozens of Hong Kong politicians are in court again today, facing charges of subversion. Coming up, we will go live to the city for the latest on the hearing.



CHURCH (on camera): Military's -- Myanmar's junta is set to face pressure today, as regional foreign ministers meet with them for talks. The military has taken increasingly violent and deadly tactics to quash pro-democracy protests. And those demonstrations have been going on every day for weeks now.

The U.N. says security forces killed at least 18 people and wounded dozens on Sunday. The White House is preparing additional actions against those responsible for the coup. America's ambassador to the U.N. says they want the Security Council to hold more intense discussions on Myanmar's political crisis.


LINDA THOMAS GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: And the U.S. is committed to using our renewed engagement, here in New York, but internationally to press the military to reverse these actions and restore a democratically elected government. But the balance we are seeing happening now does not indicate that they are ready to make that. What I would consider easy decision for them to make. So, we do have to ramp up the pressure.


CHURCH (on camera): Linda Thomas Greenfield there. Meantime the U.N. Special envoy to Myanmar says, she is being blocked from entering the country. Well, the U.N. was hoping to raise nearly $4 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen, but in a virtual donor conference on Monday, the countries pledged less than $2 billion. Secretary General, Antonio Gutierrez called the effort to avert a large-scale famine disappointing. CNN's Richard Roth, reports.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Yemen remains the world worst humanitarian crisis. Countries gathered to try to donate money to alleviate the pain and suffering, some 20 million people in Yemen are going through. Nevertheless, after the results were announced, the Secretary General said he was disappointed, and that is really a death sentence for the people of Yemen.

Aid activists, relief organizations wanted some $4 billion in pledges, they got about $1.7 billion. Jan Egeland, of the Norwegian refugee council told CNN's Becky Anderson, Monday, what the impact will be.

JAN EGELAND, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL SECRETARY GENERAL: The short fall will be measured in lives lost, in children's lives lost. The children, and the youth, the women, the most vulnerable, we all must agree have nothing to do with this senseless conflict.

ROTH: There was criticism of gulf state and western countries for failing to pledge as much as they gave even a couple of years ago. Saudi Arabia, donated the most in its pledge commitment, about $430 million. United States, offered $191 million.

NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Our message to the region, to the international community more broadly is that, collectively, we have to raise our ambition. Collectively, we have to do all we can to ensure the alleviation of the people of Yemen.


ROTH: This was the fifth so-called pledging conference for Yemen, the secretary general said when it was over, he fully expected a sixth one next year, unless the war ends. Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


CHURCH (on camera): In Hong Kong, a court hearing for 47 pro- democracy politicians has resumed. They are charged with subversion, under a controversial national security law. The hearing was postponed earlier after four politicians were hospitalized. CNN's Will Ripley, joins us in Hong Kong, with the details. Good to see you Will. So, what is the latest on this court hearing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, it looks like it's going to drag on for many more hours, late into the night, Rosemary. Just like it did last night when, as you mentioned, four pro democracy politicians, among 47 facing charges, it got so late after more than 15 our day that started in the morning, then was pushed back to the afternoon, but they had to sit around.

They fainted, they had to go to a hospital, and they did not appear in court today. So, it is unclear when those four will be out of hospital, and back in court. But for those who have then in the court, Rosemary, it's been very pretty bleak, in terms of how things are looking for them at this stage.

Despite impassioned pleas by their legal representatives, including one lawyer who left the courthouse and was later arrested by Hong Kong police at night when he tried to go back in. The judge, who is handpicked by the pro Beijing chief executive here in Hong Kong, has consistently denied bail.

And prosecutors have said they need three months, so these people need to be held in jail, without bail for three months, just to put together their case. A case alleging a conspiracy to undermine the Hong Kong government operations by standing in a primary election that the government postponed last year due to COVID, an election that could have won them seats in the Hong Kong legislature, and given them enough seats to push back against government bills, like the budget.

That, Rosemary, is Hong Kong's case for subversion. They say these lawmakers were plotting even though their supporters say they were only guilty of wanting to represent the people of Hong Kong, something that the pro-Beijing government through its national security law is firmly cracking down on as we are seeing.

CHURCH: Yes. I know you'll stand for this. Will Ripley, bringing us the latest there from Hong Kong, many thanks.

Well, next years' Winter Olympics in Beijing are under growing calls for a boycott because of China's abuse of the Uyghurs. The U.S. has called it a genocide, and now, one of America's most prominent Olympian skier Mikaela Shiffrin is speaking out. And CNN's Christina Macfarlane spoke with her and joins us now live with more. Good to see you Christina. So, what all did Shiffrin tell you?

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Rosemary, Shiffrin said that hosting the Olympic Games in countries like China, who's human rights record has been widely criticized, poses problems for athletes. Because she said, she feels that it forces her to choose between their morals and simply doing their job. She also said that she wishes she was in the room with the IOC when some of these decisions are made about where this host venues are taken next.

These are important comments from the American. Remember, she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, the world champion as well. She is set to be one of the poster girls of next year's Beijing Olympics as she has been for the last two winter games.

And the IOC have previously rejected any criticism over their awarding of the games to Beijing, saying that they are neutral, that they do not involve themselves in politics. But of course that has not help the athletes themselves or made it any easier for them at all. Take a listen.


MACFARLANE (voice over): I'm sure you are aware of the human rights protest going on about China staging the Olympics due to their treatment of the Uyghur community. I wonder, from an athlete's perspective, how awkward is it to go and compete in these countries who have been accused of abuses like this?

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN, TWO-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: What is a real bomber is that there's not only accusations but, legitimate proof. And a lot of these places we've been going in the last several Olympics. And one of the important things about the Olympics is that it is supposed to be a global event, not just in your sort of mainstream sporting countries, but it is supposed to be global.

And I do understand the importance of trying to stay true to that pledge, essentially, but it is tough to be honest, the Olympics is big. And it is something that you shoot for, and you don't want to miss it, and you certainly don't want to be put in the position of having to choose between human rights like morality, versus being able to do your job which, on the other hand, can bring light to some issues, or can actually bring some hope to the world at a very difficult time.


There is pretty much always something, every single Olympics, there's been something and you don't want to ignore that. But, you want to co- compete and win a medal and focus on that. It is a tricky balance there. That's for sure.

MACFARLANE: Do you wish that the IOC might consider that when selecting places to host the Olympic Games? The complexity that that brings for athletes?

SHIFFRIN: I do. And I'm not in the room. I wish that I could be in the room where it happens, but I'm not. So, I do not want to make light of the decisions that those committees do have to make. I doubt it's an easy job. But it feels like there could be more consideration when you are hosting an event that is supposed to bring the world together, and create hope, and peace, in a sense. It could maybe be used in a better way that sort of -- it is almost like a power that they have to decide where we go. And some places seem more fitting than others.


MACFARLANE (on camera): It's interesting, Rosemary, to hear an athlete of her caliber speak so openly about how the IOC awards its Olympic venues and separately, from this issue, we know of course over the past year that athlete activism has been on the rise, athletes modeling the (inaudible) to voice their opinions on political, and social issues. It is going to be really interesting to see how this plays out, not just in China next year, of course, but in the coming months if the Tokyo Olympics does go ahead. CHURCH: Yes. And she raises some really valid points. It is worth

some thought on that. Christina MacFarlane, many thanks for that great interview, joining us there live from London. I appreciate it.

Well, their split with Britain's royal family sent shockwaves around the world. Now, we are getting a glimpse into what Harry and Meghan told Oprah, in their first sit-down interview since they left. Back in just a moment.


CHURCH: We are now to one of the very few positive effects of the pandemic. It triggered the largest annual drop in global energy related carbon dioxide emissions since World War II. But with economies starting to open back up, experts say CO2 emissions are rebounding, in a big way.

So, for more on this, we wasn't to bring in CNN's John Defterios in Abu Dhabi. Good to see you John. So, CO2 emissions, rising again after a steep drop during the pandemic, works for global economies of course, but its bad news for the planet. So, where do we go from here?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR (on camera): Well, this literally is, Rosemary, a $12 trillion question, because that's the amount of money allocated to energy investments over the next 20 years. Now, the key question is that more of it going to hydro carbons or do we start to see that energy transition accelerates to renewable energy.


Let's take a look at those numbers from last year, because they were eye-popping. It was a nearly a 6 percent dropped in emissions globally. So that's something we haven't seen since World War II. It is almost like taking the European Union out of the global economy, because of that level of emissions that it has.

Oil demand plummeted by 8.6 percent. Something I have never seen in my 30 years of coverage in that space. But the worrying point that you talked about in your lead in there is the spike up in December, of 2 percent, globally, 7 percent in China, it was growing in terms of emissions ever since April of last year. India, spiked up again since September.

So, this is a very important year, it's the COP26 environmental meeting in Glasgow in November and December that is when governments reset their targets to 2050. The goal here is to COP global warming at around 1.5 degrees centigrade. It is a very important target indeed.

And in the oil market, that's (inaudible) week in Houston overnight at the same time that we saw these numbers, oil company CEO were saying that oil demand should rise from around 92 to 93 million barrels a day, that low point last year to 100 million barrels a day again. If you have that acceleration, it could be very difficult to meet the targets. Although renewable energy hit 20 percent last year for the first time, which is a positive. CHURCH (on camera): Alright. Many thanks to our John Defterios,

joining us there. I appreciate it.

Well, Prince Harry says his split with the other royals has been unbelievably tough, much like what his mother, Princess Diana went through, before her death. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, spoke with Oprah Winfrey for their first interview since giving up royal duties last year. Prince Harry credits his wife, Meghan, for helping him through the worst of times.


PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: You know, for me, I am just really relieved and I'm happy to be sitting here, talking to you, with my wife by my side. Because I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for her, going through this process by herself, all those years ago. Because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we have each other.


CHURCH (on camera): The highly anticipated interview will air this Sunday on U.S. network CVS.

And thank you so much for your company, I am Rosemary Church, I'll be back with more news in just a moment. Do stay with us.