Return to Transcripts main page


White House Boosts Vaccine Production With Merck-J&J Deal; Myanmar Military Responds With Force, Pressing New Charges; Continued Crackdown As Myanmar's U.N. Presence Under Question; U.S. States Ease Restrictions, Numbers Show Variants Are Not Letting Up; Stimulus Bill: Progressive Democrats Want More; CNN Investigation Reveals Mass Civilian Murder In Tigray; FBI Director: Domestic Terrorism is "Metastasizing"; Three Female Media Workers Killed in Jalalabad; More than Half the Population in Yemen is Going Hungry; Arab Israeli Towns Seeing Rise in Violent Crime; Two Cuban Vaccine Candidates to Start Late-Stage Trials; U.S. States Grapple with How to Safely Reopen Schools. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 3, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Welcome to another hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, everyone, I'm John Vause.

And coming up. The race to vaccinate.

In the U.S., a White House-brokered deal will see around the clock production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. While supply shortages are sending some countries in Europe to turn to Russia and China.

Myanmar's coup leaders up the violence as protesters returned for another day of demonstrations.

And after failing to raise enough money for humanitarian aid, U.N. officials are warning of famine in Yemen. I'll speak with the head of the United Nations development program.

That's all ahead.

We begin this hour with the rush to vaccinate around the world.

In the U.S, an historic agreement between two big drug makers will increase vaccine supplies dramatically, with the U.S. president saying there'll be enough available for every American adult by the end of May, two months ahead of schedule.

And even though recent declines in daily infections has now stalled, some states are easing pandemic restrictions.

But in Europe where vaccinations have lagged and anger is growing over the slow roll outs, some countries are going into deeper lockdowns. And some member states are going elsewhere for vaccine solutions turning to Russia and China, even Israel to help with supply. Three are now -- there are now three highly effective COVID vaccines

in use in the U.S. with the first injection Tuesday of the one-and- done Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

So far, more than 78 million vaccine doses have been administered nationwide.

CNN's Erica Hill has details.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Three, two, one --

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With one shot, history made in Ohio.


HILL: Johnson & Johnson's single dose vaccine administered for the first time.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: It's definitely a game-changer. Having a vaccine that you don't need to schedule a second dose, it really is a very, very useful tool to have.

HILL: A game changer, but --

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We need to accelerate our vaccination program to 3 million Americans a day. And, unfortunately, we don't have the vaccine supply yet in order to do that.

HILL: The current seven-day average still under 2 million shots a day.

Merck teaming up with J&J to boost production.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II. We also invoked the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the J&J vaccine.

This country will have enough vaccine supply -- I'll say it again -- for every adult in America, by the end of May.

HILL: As states wait for more supply, for the third straight day, COVID hospitalizations remain below 50,000 and falling. Also on the decline, testing, down 26 percent since mid-January.

Meantime, new cases on the rise in 15 states over the past week.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The level of infection in the country right now is the same as at the peak of the summer surge. So we're not like in great shape. And we have variants. HILL: Despite clear pleas not to move too quickly, restrictions are loosening some states.

UNKNOWN: It feels really good to get out the house

HILL: Texas dropping its mask mandate and allowing businesses to open at full capacity.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R-TEXAS): Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.

HILL: Houston's mayor pushing back.

SYLVESTER TURNER, MAYOR, HOUSTON, TEXAS: I'm very disappointed by the decision of the governor, quite frankly. To put it in very stark terms, it makes no sense.

HILL: The University of Alabama announcing plans for a full return to traditional in-person instruction this fall, no capacity limits in the classroom or the stadium which has seating for more than 100,000 fans.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: These variants are modifying very quickly. This is a scary virus and we already know that. We underestimate it at our peril.


HILL (On Camera): Despite the warnings, Mississippi also announcing on Tuesday businesses can operate at full capacity and lifting county mask mandates.

Ohio easing restrictions for large gatherings and Michigan announcing that bars and restaurants can double capacity to 50 percent as of Friday.

HILL (On Camera): In New York, I'm Erica Hill. CNN.


VAUSE: The European Medicines Agency will meet next week to consider the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A recommendation could come by late next week. Europe has already authorized three other vaccines; Pfizer, BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, and Moderna.

Meantime, the German chancellor will discuss easing restrictions with regional leaders today. Angela Merkel is under growing pressure from those losing patience with the lockdown.

And Italy has ordered all schools in the country's worst hit COVID hotspots to close from this weekend for a month. The Italian health minister says the variant first identified in the U.K. is now prevalent and infecting younger people. Well, many countries are trying to take steps to deal with the

crushing impact of this virus . The U.K. extending its support programs for millions of workers until the end of September.

And the budget secretary announced that later will extend 7 billion dollars in grants for pubs, restaurants, shops, and other businesses.

In the U.S., President Joe Biden urging Democrats to reject poison pills that could sink the COVID relief plan. He says they might need to accept provisions they do not like.

Let's go to CNN's John Defterios in Abu Dhabi for more on this.

So poison pills, basically take one for the team and get it through is the message coming from Biden. But what are Republicans saying?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, this is interesting, John. Because it's a threat, of course, to the Democratic Party to begin with.

So Joe Biden, according to our reporting on Capitol Hill, had a 15- minute conversation with Senate Democrats and said take it or leave it, as you're suggesting here. Let's not make it a Christmas tree where you get to put the ornaments on and add to it.

And so, the real challenge is the progressive wing of the party led by Elizabeth Warren. She's even challenging the new treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, who's been pretty generous when it comes to this $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.

Warren wants to bring back the 15 dollar minimum wage that was blocked by a parliamentarian maneuver inside the Senate. So she wants to revisit it on a simple vote. This is something Biden said that would threaten the stimulus package.

Now she's talking about putting forward a wealth tax as well. If you're worth $15 million to a billion dollars, a surcharge of 2 percent; over a billion dollars, three percent. She says this could raise $3 trillion overall in the budget and that could be spent elsewhere, for example, on the minimum wage.

By the way, she's not alone in terms of trying to pursue this wealth tax. We see measures in Singapore, Argentina already passed one; even the U.K. is looking for a proposal as well.

BIDEN: There does seem to be this collective agreement that something big needs to be done. But the criticism of the Biden bill and the $1.9 trillion is that it's not targeted, it needs to be more -- better focused, that there is room there to improve it. Is that something which is on the table here for Democrats?

DEFTERIOS: Yes. But I think Biden says he doesn't have any stomach for this whatsoever. He wants to leave it as it is and push it through because he has to wrestle with the Republicans.

And this is also, John, budget day in the U.K., as you suggested in your lead in there. And we see a similar tale -- it's almost a time to pay the piper in the U.K. in terms of laying out its budget for the next year, right.

They've mounted up debt of over a half a trillion dollars and we know what's on the table. We know it's on the shoulders of Rishi Sunak, who is the Chancellor of the Exchequer -- only 40 years old, working with the prime minister, Boris Johnson.

So (inaudible) going to look at the core offering here. They're talking about raising corporate taxes, going from 19 to 23 percent. It seems like a big jump but in relation to the European Union, it's pretty low. And the U.K. is now out of the European Union.

You talked about support a little bit earlier here but for small business. That's paying the furlough through September, also lowering the business rates on the main streets for restaurants and retailers which is very important.

The vaccine roll out. They've had an awful start to the pandemic but they're doing very well, as you know, by European standards with the vaccine. That's going to cost over $2 billion. And they want to keep the pace going forward.

And finally, because of COP26 and hosting it by the end of the year, this huge climate conference, expect some renewable energy measures as well.

The U.K. is one of the leaders in Europe with a net zero target of 2050. Boris Johnson says he wants to surpass that and do better.

And unlike the United States, by the way -- you were asking me about the budget and the debt -- the U.S. is running above 130 percent debt to GDP, the U.K. is at 85 percent. But they have much more budget discipline. When it goes up at this level, they come back with a budget to address it.


But the art is preserving growth by keeping your finances in order. And that's what they are going to try to do later today. John.

VAUSE: Nice segue to the U.K. budget there, John. Appreciate that. John Defterios there in Abu Dhabi.

DEFTERIOS: Yes. You bet.

VAUSE: A month's long CNN investigation has found detailed evidence of the massacre of dozens of civilians in Ethiopia.

The atrocity took place in Tigray in the country's north where Ethiopian troops and their allies from neighboring Eritrea have waged a brutal military offensive on forces loyal to the regional government.

CNN has spoken to dozens of the witnesses who say Eritrean soldiers went on a killing spree killing unarmed civilians just days before a religious holiday.

And despite an information blackout, our reporters uncovered a pattern of atrocities which may have claimed thousands of lives.

And a warning now. The details and the images in CNN's Nima Elbagir's exclusive report are disturbing.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (Voice-over): A bloody jacket, some rope used to tie the victims ,shoes worn by a Sunday school boy. The haunting remnants of a brutal massacre in a village in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region. A massacre perpetrated by Eritrean soldiers on Ethiopian soil.

Fifty-two out of the 54 pictures you see here are victims whose identities have been verified by CNN. This is the village of Maryam Dengelat where CNN's investigation uncovered the murder of dozens, possibly even more than hundred civilians. Witnesses tell CNN people were murdered here over three days of mayhem.

With video and communication limited due to an Ethiopian government- imposed blackout on the region and fear of government retribution rife, CNN has had to illustrate witness testimony through animation and use of actors voices to describe what happened in December last year

One eyewitness, Marta (ph), not her real name, told CNN they were returning from morning church service. When they got home, they were confronted by Eritrean troops.

MARTHA (ph), (Captioned): "They came to our house then they told us to get out. There were a lot of soldiers outside and they were saying, 'Come out, come out, you bitch.' We said, 'we're civilian, we're civilians' showing our IDs. They didn't ask any question. They just opened fire.

ELBAGIR (Voice Over): To understand what happened here over the course of these three days, you need to understand what's been happening over the last few years in Ethiopia.

Under the country's former rulers, the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, Ethiopia waged hostilities with Eritrea for the TPLF almost 30 years in power.

Ethiopia's President Abiy Ahmed won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing all that to an end.

The Tigray region has always been distinct in culture and language and its leadership is battling for autonomy from Ethiopia's government.

Now the two former enemies stand accused of working together to crush to graze fight for autonomy and civilians are being killed in what could be war crimes and something the ousted Tigray leader described as acts of genocide. This video was secretly taken and smuggled out to CNN to avoid Ethiopian and Eritrean troops. It's footage of the graves that eyewitnesses described to CNN in harrowing testimony. Underneath the branches and sticks are the grave sites for the victims.

Another eyewitness Abraham (ph), again, not his real name, was supposed to help clean the church at Maryam Dengelat before the festival. Instead, he became a grave digger.

ABRAHAM (ph), (Captioned): "They were all so young and they took them and killed them together in a field."

ELBAGIR: Among those he buried were 24 Sunday school children. Abraham (ph) and others registered the kids names as best they could. One by one, the shallow graves were uncovered and parents came to identify their children. Some was so badly disfigured, they could only be identified by their clothing.

This is not the only massacre perpetrated in Tigray. Using satellite images and interviews with witnesses, Amnesty was able to find evidence of at least one other separate massacre involving hundreds of civilians, believed to be carried out in another city days earlier.

A day after the investigations by CNN and Amnesty International, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said, "Those responsible [for them] must be held accountable."

Strong words, but will words be enough when the crimes described bear all the hallmarks of a possible genocide?

ELBAGIR (Voice Over): Nima Elbagir, CNN.


VAUSE: CNN put the findings of its investigation to the government of Ethiopia and Eritrea, along with the TPLF.


VAUSE: In an earlier statement, the Ethiopian government says it was fully committed to undertake thorough investigations of alleged human rights abuses. While adding that it found U.S. comments on Ethiopian internal affairs regrettable as forces were conducting lawful operations.

The TPLF said its forces were not in the vicinity before or after the massacre and called for a U.N. investigation to hold all sides accountable for atrocities committed during the conflict.

The U.N. Security Council will discuss the ongoing situation behind closed doors and Thursday.

The Eritrean government has not responded to CNN's request for comment. Friday, the government vehemently denied its soldiers had committed

atrocities during another massacre in Tigray reported by Amnesty International.

Well, Russia has been hit by new sanctions from the U.S. and E.U. after the White House concluded that Moscow poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

He was arrested in January returning from Germany where he received treatment for poisoning with a military-grade nerve agent.

Senior Russian officials and 14 entities are the target of these new sanctions.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The announcement we're making today was done in harmony with the E.U. announcement.

It was not meant to be a silver bullet or an ending to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia. We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge, we're prepared for that.

And we're neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate.

NED PRICE, SPOKESMAN, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: We are exercising our authorities to send a clear signal. That Russia's use of chemical weapons and human rights abuses have severe consequences.

Any use of chemical weapons, anywhere, at any time, by anyone, under any circumstance, is unacceptable and it contravenes international norms.


VAUSE: The Kremlin denies any role in the attack on Navalny last year and says it has found no proof he was poisoned. It has also dismissed the new sanctions.

CNN's Kylie Atwood tell us that the U.S. is also weighing other actions against Russia.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We should note that this is the first action that the U.S. has taken against Russia for the poisoning and imprisonment of Navalny, the Russian opposition leader.

And President Trump failed to undertake these sanctions, they were prepared for him, he failed to roll them out and so the Biden Administration is trying to make a point in actually following through on this.

Now we also know, however, that the Biden Administration is reviewing a number of other misdeeds by Russia. And we do expect that there are going to take action on those things such as the SolarWinds hack and putting bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan in the coming weeks.

So this is just the beginning of the Biden Administration's Russia policy, this is definitely not the end. And we will watch to see if this has any impact.



New charges announced against the ousted president of Myanmar. And it comes amidst new report of police using live ammunition on protesters.

Also ahead.


UNKNOWN: It turns out the formula is obvious. Either police in the Arab street or crime in the Arab street.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: With a daily crime surge in many Arab-Israeli towns, what are community leaders doing to stop it.

More on that when we come back.



VAUSE: Myanmar's ousted president is now facing two new charges. His lawyer says they involve violations of the constitution, may be punishable by up to three years in prison.

Meantime, protesters against the military coup confronted police again, despite the increasing risk of violence.



Vause (Voice Over): The sound of gunfire could be heard as police moved towards hundreds of protesters in Yangon. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is following all these developments from Seoul.

Let's start with the charges though against the president. Exactly what are those charges, what's the violation here which is alleged?


And President Win Myint now has four charges against him. And this latest one breaching the provisions of the constitution and acts of the parliament. That's pretty much all we have from his lawyer at his point.

There's no clarity as to exactly what he has alleged to have done to be against that particular law.

But what we're really seeing is that as time goes on against Aung San Suu Kyi and also against President Win Myint, we are seeing the charges increase. So they now both have four against them.

And just that one, last one, against the president, as you say, it carries a prison sentence if found guilty of three years. And that's just one out of the four.

Now, at this point, we understand, certainly in Aung San Suu Kyi's case, March the 15th will be the next time when there will have a court hearing. There was one earlier this week just via videoconference.

But it's really an indication that these charges are racking up from the military point of view. Of course, both say that they have not done anything wrong.

Now also, there is a bit of a battle going on at this point in the United Nations as to who exactly the proper and right ambassador for Myanmar is in the United Nations.

Now just last week, we saw Kyaw Moe Tun, he gave an impassioned speech asking for U.N. member states to do more to help Myanmar. By the weekend, he had been fired by the military leadership because he was clearly supporting the protesters in the democratically elected government.

And now, of course, the U.N. has this tricky situation of who they should be recognizing and who should be sitting in that seat.

So this really is an issue that's going right to the top at the United Nations now, where the military leadership is trying to assert its coup and say that they are the rightful government in Myanmar.


VAUSE: At the same time as that battle for diplomacy, who gets to represent Myanmar at the U.N., there's the battle on the streets as well between protesters and security forces which seems to be taking a more violent turn the longer this goes on.

HANCOCKS: It does, yes. And we've seen this, John, over recent days. That the level of violence that the police are willing to take or are committed, potentially, allowed by the military leadership to take against protestors has definitely increased.

Sunday alone, there were 18 people who were killed. The U.N. at this point believes that 21 have been killed at least so far. And we are seeing this now on a daily basis this week. Already -- this Wednesday as well -- we've seen it in a number of different cities some fairly violent clashes between protesters and police.

There are still calls around the world calling on the police, the military, to stop use of force against protesters. It's not being heeded at this point.

In fact, the military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, actually said that he backs police and he thinks they're using minimum force.

But clearly, the videos that are seeping out of Myanmar, that are being posted on social media, livestreams of these clashes, show that the level of violence is unfortunately increasing.


VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks live in Seoul.

Australia's attorney general has come forward and outed himself as the cabinet minister at the center of rape allegations. Christian Porter strongly denied the accusation which dates back to 1988.

Live now to Sydney, journalist Angus Watson.

So this has been an historic case, I guess, which has rocked politics in Australia. What are the details?

ANGUS WATSON, JOURNALIST: Absolutely, John. This is a particularly disturbing case, not just because it's against the highest law official in the land, Christian Porter, the attorney general here in Australia but of the detail that the alleged complainant went into when detailing the alleged rape that occurred in January 1988.


She, unfortunately, passed away last year, meaning that the police investigation into that incident can't go ahead.

The New South Wales police here in Sydney said that there wouldn't be enough admissible evidence to prove or deny that Christian Porter did, in fact, commit this rape that this woman accused him of doing.

Of course, as you mentioned, Christian Porter strenuously denied the allegations in a press conference in Perth today, John, saying -- I'll just get it up on screen, if you don't mind, saying --

"Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened. Even now, the only information I have about the allegations is what has been circulating online."

WATSON: So this story about something that happened 33 years ago surfaced last week when the ABC published allegations that this woman had put in her statement before she passed away.

Those allegations were sent to the prime minister, they were sent to two senators in Australia as well who promptly put them onto the AFP.

But, John, Christian Porter saying he didn't do it and he didn't even have a chance to read those allegations before they went public, John.

VAUSE: And he is not standing down, he is remaining as attorney general and taking a short leave. What's the details there?

WATSON: He said he wouldn't stand down because, at the moment, this remains an allegation.

He said that the role of the attorney general is to uphold the law and that it was not the right process for allegations to be something that ends someone's career.

But, John, that just goes to the difficulty of the situation. Is it tenable -- the question on many people's lips here in Australia -- for the attorney general to have such a grievous charge levied against him? And for the situation in which that now can't be proven or denied by a criminal case in a court of law.

So there have been a people here including the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, saying that there needs to be some other sort of civil inquiry into this matter to restore confidence in one of its most senior politicians in the land, John.

VAUSE: Angus, thank you. Angus Watson there in Sydney, with the very latest on the political case rocking Australia. Thank you.

Satellite images obtained by CNN are raising new concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The image was captured by Maxar on February 11th. Analysts say it shows Pyongyang trying to hide underground tunnels leading to weapon storage facilities.

It could also add urgency for calls for the U.S. President Joe Biden to push North Korea higher up on his foreign policy to do list. Some experts believe he should send a direct signal to demonstrate a willingness to talk.

Still to come. A chilling warning from the FBI director about the terrorism of the January attack on the U.S. Capitol.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: January 6th was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now. And it's not going away anytime soon.




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

Well, the director of the FBI has appeared before Congress warning that domestic terrorism is spreading across the United States. Christopher Wray was called to testify after the January 6th attack on the Capitol and he defended how the FBI shared intelligence with law enforcement.

He also knocked down a favorite right-wing conspiracy theory that anti fascist extremists, Antifa, were responsible for the violence.

Jessica Schneider has our report.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: That attack, that siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple, and it is behavior that we, the FBI view as domestic terrorism.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE, CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In his first congressional testimony since the attack on the Capitol, FBI Director Christopher Wray, appointed by former President Trump put a dagger into the conspiracy theories pushed by some Trump supporters about what happened on that day.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Has there so far been any evidence that the January 6th riot here, the insurrection, was organized by people simply posing as supporters of President Trump?

WRAY: We have not seen any evidence of that, certainly --

COONS: Is there any evidence at all that it was organized or planned or carried out by groups like Antifa or Black Lives Matter?

WRAY: We have not seen any evidence to that effect thus far in the investigation.

COONS: And is there any doubt that the people who stormed the Capitol, included white supremacists and other far right extremist organizations?

WRAY: There is no doubt that it included individuals that we would call militia violent extremists, and in some instances individuals that were racially motivated violent extremists.

SCHNEIDER: Wray also explained in detail the warnings his agency found online before the insurrection.

WRAY: This was information posted online, under a moniker or a pseudonym. It was unvetted, uncorroborated information but it was -- and it was somewhat aspirational in nature -- but it was concerning.

SCHNEIDER: The information came from the FBI's Norfolk field office warning of violence war at the Capitol. "The Washington Post" reported the FBI bulletin quoted individuals saying be ready to fight. Go there ready for war. We get our president or we die.

Former Capitol police chief Steven Sund testified last month that the details were only disseminated via email, the day before the attack. But Wray disagreed.

WRAY: That information was quickly, as an within an hour, disseminated and communicated with our partners including the U.S. Capitol police, including Metro PD in not one, not two but three different ways.

SCHNEIDER: Wray explained the bulletin was first emailed to members of the joint terrorism task force which includes officers from the Capitol, and Metropolitan Police Department. Then there was a verbal briefing to members of those departments at the command post. And finally it was posted on the law enforcement portal available to agencies around the country.

WRAY: The information was raw. It was unverified. In a perfect world we would've taken longer to be able to figure out whether it was reliable. But we made the judgment. Our folks made the judgment to get that information to the relevant people as quickly as possible.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Director Wray says the domestic terrorism threat continues to grow. Right now the FBI is investigating 2,000 domestic terrorism cases. That's double the number that were open in 2017 when Wray joined the FBI.

And Director Wray also acknowledged that this violent attack on the Capitol, it could serve as inspiration to foreign terrorist organizations.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Another deadly attack on Afghan women, this time the dead worked for a local TV station. A warning: some of what you are about to see in here is graphic.

Government sources say the women were heading home from work when they were gunned down. According to witnesses, the attackers shot the women in the head and then fled. A four woman survived reportedly now in hospital fighting for her life.

Coworkers say the three women who died were recent high school graduates aged between 18-20. They've been working in the station's dubbing department.


KHAN SAFI, ENIKASS TV (through translator): All of them were our colleagues for more than two years. They were very good people. I have no words. All I can say is this was a brutal act against them. Killing women is a major sin.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: According to police the lead attacker has been arrested and has ties to the Taliban. A spokesman though for the Taliban denies the group was involved. This comes amid a wave of shootings and vehicle bomb attacks in recent months, and appear to be targeting journalists, civil social workers and mid level government employees.


VAUSE: Years of war has led to what the U.N. calls the world's largest humanitarian crisis with Yemen teetering on large-scale famine. The U.N. plea for aid at a donors' conference resulted in just under $2 billion dollars in pledges, less than half of the nearly $4 billion which the U.N. says is needed.


MARK LOWCOCK, U.N. AID CHIEF: This does not solve the problem. We are disappointed in the outcome.

It's going to be impossible with such limited resources to prevent a large-scale famine. So we are going to have to come back to people and ask them for a stronger response before too long.


VAUSE: The U.N. says more than half of Yemen's population is going hungry. At least 24 million are in need, millions have been displaced.

The head of the United Nations Development Programme Achim Steiner, is with us now. Mr. Steiner, thank you for being with us and taking the time.


VAUSE: Well, the numbers are incredibly staggering. It's very hard to sort of wrap your head around so many people facing, you know, famine.

The number which stood out to me was 400,000 children under the age of five who are at risk of dying from acute malnutrition this year. In many respects, they are not starving but they are being starved because both sides of the conflict have been preventing humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it the most. That's leading to a lot of countries suspending their aid or at least being reluctant to contribute. So this is a complicated problem.

STEINER: It is indeed. And you know, in any situation where conflicting parties, where war and fighting dominates the ability of a country, of a nation state or and of government provide for its citizens is essentially not operating anymore.

You have a desperate situation. The tragedy of Yemen is that this is a six-year-old war in which already, you know, tens of thousands of people have died. Where international support has actually prevented millions of starving to death.

But here we are at the beginning of 2021, and yet again the prospects of famine and famine-like conditions are really becoming much, much more dramatic in the next few months is a very real prospect.

And you just mentioned a few numbers and numbers sometimes can numb us but I think if you put faces, human faces to these numbers, these are fathers and mothers who cannot feed their children. Brothers and sisters who see their siblings die.

We have an absolute desperate situation, and yet we can save lives. We can make a difference and that was the whole purpose of the pledging conference and the continued efforts by the United Nations but also non-governmental organizations to alert the world to this really the worst humanitarian crisis we have on the planet in Yemen.

VAUSE: That joiners' (ph) conference on Monday raised less than half of the almost $4 billion which the U.N. says is needed to avoid widespread famine. They Secretary General issued a statement afterwards saying in part, the best that could be said about today is that it represents a down payment.

I think those who did pledged generously. I ask others to consider again what they can do to help stave off the worst famine the world has seen in decades.

Is that kind of sort of false hope driven by wishful thinking in the sense that, you know, countries are going to come back and donate again? What are the chances that just anything like that will happen in a significant way?

STEINER: Well, maybe it is also good to remind ourselves that there are a number of countries who have already for a number of years been contributing very significantly to the international efforts to support Yemeni citizens in this crisis.

And I think the Secretary-General's appeal was really also aimed at countries that have either stepped back or did not step forward at this (INAUDIBLE) conference who may have in the past.

We are a community of over 190 nations states around the world, half of the idea of the United Nations is also to speak to the notion of solidarity and compassion.

And I think in that spirit, there are many more countries who have not yet contributed to this emergency appeal. And our hope is obviously that with the information they have, with an understanding also in the public debate in their societies about what is happening in Yemen, that others will step forward because otherwise we are literally in a situation where over the next few months, we will have to cut the food supply rations.

We will have to shut health centers. We will not be able to assist people with income, because it is true through the income that are the best antidote to starvation and to famine conditions.

These are the measures that we can take, and yet the prospect right now is that with only half of the appeal funded, not only will we not be able to deliver what was planned, in fact we will have to cut back and that as the Secretary General said in some respects, for some people it would be the equivalent of a death sentence.

VAUSE: In the past three hours, Houthi rebels backed by Iran claimed to attack an airport in Saudi Arabia. Saudis say that isn't the case. But, you know, until the fighting stops, the U.S. Secretary of State warns that the humanitarian crisis will continue to get worse. Here he is.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We can only end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen by ending the war in Yemen.


BLINKEN: And so the United States is reinvigorating our diplomatic efforts to end the war. The Saudis and the Republic of Yemen government are committed and eager to find a solution to the conflict. We call on the Houthis to match this commitment.


VAUSE: You know, at least the U.S. has also suspended weapons sales to Saudi unlike the United Kingdom, which has not only continued to supply weapons to Riyadh but also significantly cut their contribution money to humanitarian assistance. It's sort of a double whammy from Britain.

STEINER: Well, at this moment, the United Nations is focused on stopping the fighting, and that is certainly the Secretary General's and all our first priority. I think the special envoy Martin Griffiths is engaged in a very sensitive diplomatic, shot of diplomacy effort to once again try and pick up the pieces from where we were more hopeful just in December 2018, the Stockholm Agreement.

I think the prospects clearly have shifted and are changing, and perhaps there is a glimmer of hope that this war can end because at the end of the day, as we all know, it is the conflicting parties, and it is those who provide them with weapons, it is those who are geopolitical actors that ultimately enable these conflicts to go on and on and on.

And I think this is the moment where, you know, really first of all, within the country, within the region, but also in the global community, there is a need to align behind this notion that this war must end. It is the only way in which we can actually stop this humanitarian tragedy. And begin to recover from what is already more than two decades of development progress lost in Yemen.

That is our estimate, that we have as UNDP, two decades lost and lives being lost every day. And the prospect of perhaps tens of thousands starving to death this year. That is the outlook for Yemen if the fighting continues.

VAUSE: There are so many innocent victims in all this. It's just hard to think that they're suffering in what will happen in the weeks and months ahead. Achim Steiner, thank you so much for being with us.

STEINER: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Over the past year Arab-Israel towns have seen a wave of violent and deadly crimes, a crime spree so bad Arab leaders are now demanding action from Israel's police. That is despite years of mistrust.

CNN's Sam Kiley has the story.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Newly- qualified nurse Ahmed Hijazi (ph) got to wear his uniform for just a day, before he was killed in crossfire between Israeli police and Israeli Arab suspects. Another victim of growing underworld violence that is hitting Arab Israeli towns.

UMM JABER HIJAZI, SLAIN NURSE'S MOTHER (through translator): He wore the white nurse uniform only for one day. We didn't get the chance to celebrate. They snuffed out delight in my heart.

KILEY: The number of Arabs murdered in Israel went up by more than a quarter last year, according to the Arab Center for Safe Society.

Ahmed died February the 1st Tamira (ph). In the previous month there had been 28 shootings and 18 arson attacks, in this Israeli city that is being stifled by organized crime, according to police figures.

In nearby Umm al-Fahm three weeks earlier, this former mayor, Dr. Suleiman Agbaria (ph) was shot several times in his car by masked gunmen. He survived and remains in hospital.

Locals often believe that the police turn a blind eye to organized criminals.

ANAS AGBARIA, FORMER MAYOR'S SON: Anyone in Umm al-Fahm can tell you the names of people who have guns. We have seven families who are gangsters here, and the police and everyone knows they are gangsters. And the police are doing nothing.

KILEY: Distrust for the police is deep in this town. It goes back 21 years, when 13 Israeli Arabs were killed by Israeli police during protests in support of the Palestinian uprising in the nearby West Bank.

Israel's parliament estimates that there are 400,000 illegal weapons in Israel, mostly stolen from the army and police, and mostly in the hands of Israeli Arabs.

The innocent here, pray for an end to the mayhem guns bring. And they march every week to demand better security.

Distrust of the police is reinforced when unprovoked by any crowd violence, the police react like this. (on camera): The Israeli police have opened fire with stun grenades,

and with the foul smelling, what is known as skunk guns.

(voice over): Still, some Israeli Arabs blame their own people for the violence which has engulfed them.

TAMIRA MANAL HIJAZI, ENGLISH TEACHER: My cousin has been shot like one month ago because he was in a place, in a store, that some guys started to shoot at that store and my cousin was there, so he was shot in his foot.

I can't blame the police for what is going in our society, but I blame the police for the way he treats us and how police treats Jews.


KILEY: Israel's Arab cities' only got permanent police stations in 2017. Arabs make up 21 percent of Israel's population. Although they often complain of being seen as second-class citizens in the Jewish state, Arab political parties are capable of winning 10 to 15 seats in elections to the 120 seat Knesset.

They are still largely shunned by Jewish parties, but could one day be king makers in coalitions especially for the Israeli left. So violence in Arab towns is slowly becoming a mainstream Israeli issue.

This Israeli police general, a Muslim Arab, says the police actions during the protests filmed by CNN are already under investigation. Distrust, he agrees, does run very deep.

MAJ. GEN. JAMAL HAKROUSH, ISRAELI POLICE SPOKESMAN: (through translator): For decades the police were not in the villages. For a decades we were not there. It turns out the formula is obvious, either police in the Arab streets or crime in the Arab street.

In the past, there were no police, they were criminal, now we're putting in police wherever we go in, we get rid of crime.

KILEY: The general says it will take time to win over Israeli Arab towns. But he has a new budget of about $13 million for extra policing in Arab areas, including five new police stations. How much time it takes, may depend on how often this happens.

Sam Kiley, CNN -- Umm al-Fahm.


VAUSE: Still to come, Latin America could soon have its first homegrown COVID vaccine. Details on Cuba's effort to release not just one but several vaccines in the weeks to come.


VAUSE: The number of people dying every day from the coronavirus in Brazil is hitting record highs with more than 1,600 deaths reported on Tuesday. Brazil has the world's second highest death toll after the United States.

Despite the surge, Brazil's vice president is defending the government opposition to a national lockdown. He says the best way to stop the spread of the disease is to accelerate vaccinations. So far just over 3 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

Cuba has done the final stage trials of two homegrown vaccines. Two others are also being tested, but are at an earlier stage of the process.

Despite a collapsing health care system, the communist island nation has mad some strides in developing treatment for COVID-19.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has our report


PATRICK OPPMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Cuba hopes this is what the payoff looks like to a big gamble.

While many other developing countries have competed with richer nations to import vaccines against the coronavirus, Cuba has been making its own vaccine.

In March, 2 out of 4 potential vaccine candidates made in Cuba will begin their third and final trials. If the trials are successful, Cuba's would be the first vaccine developed in Latin America.


DR. DAGMAR GARCIA RIVERA, CUBAN SCIENTIST: The main objective of this clinical trial is to show the clinical efficacy of our vaccine candidates. After that we could be in condition for start a massive immunization in Cuba or in some other countries of the world.

OPPMANN (on camera): You believe that everybody in Cuba, the 11 million people who live here could be vaccinated by the end of this year.


OPPMANN (voice over): While Cuba is only now just beginning to vaccinate people on a large scale as part of the third trial, Cuban scientists tell CNN they have already produced more than 300,000 doses of Sovereign 2, one of their vaccine candidates. It could eventually make million more doses each month.

(on camera): The pandemic has all but destroyed Cuba's economy. Beaches that usually would be full of tourists are now empty. The vaccine though could help change Cuba's fortunes as researchers here say they can produce enough to sell overseas, and even market vaccination vacations. Offering the vaccine to tourists as a way to restart the Cuban tourism industry.

(voice over): It may seem unbelievable that a poor island where there are shortages of food and basic medicines, like painkillers and antibiotics can create a cutting edge vaccine. But Cuba has produced its own vaccine going back decades.

Cuban scientists say the same U.S. sanctions that isolated the island forced Cuba to become a biomedical pioneer. Cuba has been following established protocols in providing updates on their vaccine development, international observers say --

"This is very good news and we are following these results carefully," he said. First because the Cuban population will directly benefit from their vaccine candidates and this at some point could control the transmission in the country.

Cuban scientists say the island likely could not afford to import vaccines from abroad. And pursuit multiple vaccine candidates in case some do not pass the trials.

If Cuba ends up with more than one working vaccine it could allow doctors a greater arsenal to wipe out the coronavirus here.

DR. TANIA CROMBET, CUBAN SCIENTIST: I also think that at the end, we might be able to implement what we call, prime and boost, which is using some vaccines for the first doses, and then boostering (ph) -- (INAUDIBLE) with the second vaccine candidate in order to enhance the previous one.

Iran is carrying out large-scale trials with Cuban vaccines. And Mexico is expected to begin trials. As the world struggles with vaccine shortages, other countries may be calling soon.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN -- Havana.


VAUSE: Still to come, thousands of U.S. schoolkids are returning to the classrooms in one of the nation's largest districts.

Coming up we'll take a look at all the precautions that's being taken.


VAUSE: Across the United States the focus now is on how to safely reopen schools, this week many children in Chicago, America's third largest city are returning to the classroom.

But as Omar Jimenez reports, while it may be a return to school, it is not a return to normal.



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sounds of schools, ring through these hallways for the first time in nearly a year.

But this Chicago kindergarten class looks a little different than it used to. Mainly, masks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can read the creatures (ph), read the words, retell the story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, you remembered all that.

LEIGH OQUENDO, KINDERGARTEN TEACHER: We've made a graph and we were graphing our times of building mask stamina, so we have been wearing them even though we were on computers.

JIMENEZ: Chicago's school district, the third largest in the city welcomed back thousands of kindergarten through 5th grade students, Monday -- a month after it planned to, following a weeks' long standoff with the city's teachers union over COVID protocols.

Parents had to opt in to go back to in person learning. Only about 30 percent choose to do so.

(on camera): It wasn't easy to get to this point.


Everybody wanted the same thing. Our teachers, principals, parents they want their kids in school. They want them to get a great education, but they wanted to be safe.

JIMENEZ (voice over): A big part of that? Vaccinating teachers, who are now being prioritized. But also making sure protocols are actually enforced inside the school.

(on camera): These signs are among what is new when you walk the hallways at this particular school in Chicago. You have "one way only" signs also on the ground, "please keep six feet of distance".

Visual reminders of the stakes to returning in person, stakes that are in play at places all across the country.

(voice over): New York City the largest school district in the U.S. welcomed back middle schoolers in-person last week, after its elementary school students return in December. All of it under the shadow of President Joe Biden's goal to reopen most K through 8 schools five days a week, within his first 100 days in office.

(on camera): Is that realistic?

JACKSON: Well, I think it's a very aspirational goal. It is going to take time to get people back to a place where they feel comfortable. This is one step in a long journey. We can't go from where we are today to where we were a year ago. It is going to be a process.

JIMENEZ (voice over): Even with in-person available, Chicago schools aren't in-person five days a week, it is still one to three days virtual, two to four days face to face. A first step the district says -- towards getting back to normal.

OQUENDO: There are things that are not changing although we're in person or some things that I discovered and learned from curriculum, and ways of teaching and being creative that I'm going to continue to implement even though we are here in person. JIMENEZ: Omar Jimenez, CNN -- Chicago.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us, the news continues with Rosemary church after a short break. Thanks for watching.