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Dramatic Escalation of Violence against Myanmar Protesters; Brazil Has Vaccinated Less Than 4 Percent of Its Population; ICC to Probe Alleged War Crimes in Palestinian Territories; Buckingham Palace to Investigate Claims Meghan Markle Bullied Staff; Investigation Underway into Attack on Iraqi Air Base; Pope Francis to Meet Iraq's Minority Christians; Broadway Performers Take the Stage in Australia. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 4, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00]

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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I am Rosemary Church.

Just ahead defiant protesters are back on the street in Myanmar, one day after what the U.N. calls the deadliest crackdown yet on the pro- democracy movement.

A dire warning about COVID variants, what is happening in Brazil. It's alarming medical experts around the world.

And a new controversy is brewing among the British royals, with accusations of bullying among the duchess of Sussex. Now Meghan Markle is responding to all of it, accusing Buckingham Palace of spreading lies.

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CHURCH: Thanks for joining us.

Myanmar's protesters are saying they know the risks but they are willing to take them in their drive to restore democracy. They are back on the streets after a day the U.N. described as the bloodiest so far since the February coup.

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CHURCH (voice-over): Witnesses say security forces opened fire on Wednesday with little warning. The U.N. says 38 people were killed. The brutality of the crackdown is clear in video like this one, showing security forces ordering 3 charity workers out of an ambulance, then beating them with their guns and batons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Paula Hancocks is in Seoul and joins us now live.

Paula, after the deadliest day in Myanmar, what is the latest on the massacre and these protests today?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, protesters are continuing to come out. We have been seeing this throughout the fact that even though there are those who are losing their lives in this increasingly forceful crackdown by the security forces in Myanmar, protesters are still willing to come out on the street and call for democracy.

Now you say Wednesday it was the bloodiest day since the coup on February 1st. This was confirmed by the United Nations' special envoy, saying that the total who have lost their lives is around 50 or at least 50.

But we do hear activists say that they fear the number is far higher. Of course it is extremely difficult to confirm exactly what's happening on the ground with no official tally being taken.

We also, we when we heard from the envoy, she had spoken to a military representative and he said that there would be grave consequences from the international community, to which the military representative said that we are used to sanctions, we have survived them in the past.

Also pointed out that they have learned to be with very few friends. An ominous warning there from the United Nations special envoy pointing out, at this point that the military leadership and the security forces within Myanmar appear to be completely unmoved by the pressure that we are seeing from the international community.

Of course it is a concern that this violence will continue. We have seen, it's undoubtedly the case, the force that police are willing to use has increased since Sunday. Whether or not that was a direct order from the military leadership, it is unclear at this point.

But there is no doubt that the level of force they are using against protesters on the street is increasing.

CHURCH: Our reporter, Paula Hancocks bringing us the latest from her vantage point from Seoul. Appreciate it.

The U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar told us earlier that the military is shooting people down in cold blood and it is happening across the country. Speaking with John Vause, Tom Andrews says that the military forces are using 12 gauge shotguns, 38 millimeter and semi automatic rifles.

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TOM ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR: We are talking about a regime here, a military, that is infamous for its brutality. We've seen what they're capable of doing, certainly in protests in the past and, of course, we're now seeing that brutality play out on the streets.

And not just the major cities but in smaller communities and townships. This is going on all over the country. It is escalating and the regime is demonstrating to the world just how brutal it's capable of being.

And here is a people who would normally, you would look to your police and security forces to protect you.

[02:05:00]

ANDREWS: But in the case of those living in Myanmar, the military, the police have turned on them. So it is a horrible, horrible, horrible situation.

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CHURCH: We are a year into this pandemic and we are still learning more about how contagious and harmful the coronavirus can be.

According to a study from the World Obesity Forum, death rates from COVID are at least 10 times higher in countries with more overweight populations. Even more research shows that, without proper containment measures, the coronavirus variant first found in the U.K. can lead to a surge of cases.

To keep up, experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recommend a major increase in vaccinations. Germany is trying to do just that; Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the country will soon authorize the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, for those over 65, saying recent studies show that it is effective.

For the second day in a row, Brazil has reported its highest daily death toll from COVID-19. Almost 2,000 people died on Wednesday, pushing the country 7-day average to its worst level yet. CNN's Shasta Darlington has the details.

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SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Brazil, more than 1,900 people died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, a new daily record in a country where the total death toll has already surpassed a quarter of a million.

The health ministry also registered more than 71,000 new cases, bringing the total number of cases over 10.7 million and pushing the health system to the limit.

ICUs across the country near or at capacity with one third of state governments reporting ICU occupation at over 90 percent.

The new wave of infections and deaths has been blamed on a more relaxed attitude with a rash of big parties around carnival time, as well as a more contagious variant.

The governor of Brazil's biggest state, Sao Paulo, announced on Wednesday that more restrictive measures known as the red phase would be imposed starting this weekend. That means all but essential businesses must close.

Governor Joao Doria warned that the state's health system was on the verge of collapse if drastic measures weren't taken.

He joins a growing list of mayors and governors who have imposed tighter measures in the hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Brazil has vaccinated less than four percent of the population, and the national vaccination program has suffered from repeated delays and political in-fighting -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

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CHURCH: Dennis Carroll is an infectious disease expert and former director of the U.S. Agency for International Developments, Emerging Threats Division.

Good to have you with us.

DENNIS CARROLL, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: It is a pleasure to be here.

CHURCH: Brazil is experiencing record COVID-19 deaths and we are seeing the spread of a more contagious variant that can reinfect people who have already recovered from the virus.

How bad could this Brazilian variant get, do you think, if it is not controlled right now?

And how far has it circulated, do you think?

CARROLL: Well, first off, the Brazilian variant is a reflection of a core reality of this virus, which is that it continues to mutate. There are new variants emerging in different parts of the world. The one in Brazil is showing itself to be more transmissible.

And as we have seen, some reports suggest that its ability to reinfect those who have already been infected. It is quite significant, it is alarming and, obviously, our first response is to limit the spread of this virus, along with any other new variants as well --

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CARROLL: -- vigilance and attention.

CHURCH: Right, and we do have a number of COVID vaccines at our disposal across the globe but supply is still a very big problem and wealthy nations are reluctant to share their vaccines until their own populations are vaccinated.

What more needs to be done to try and stop the spread of this Brazilian variant and, of course, the virus generally? CARROLL: First and foremost, we need to really intensify and expand the measures we know will stop the spread, that is face masks and social distancing.

Both in Brazil and everywhere else in the world, including the United States, that is a measure we know that works, even in the absence of a vaccine. I think, secondly, the global community really needs to pay attention to these variants.

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CARROLL: And develop a well coordinated strategy for isolating and containing these, so that they do not become a global problem. I think that requires that we begin using the vaccines that are available in a much more unified strategic way, not simply focusing on our own national populations.

But we need to also think about these vaccines as a tool to control, potentially, the spread of these new mutations. It requires new thinking about how we approach the availability and the use of vaccines as a global tool, not just as a national tool.

CHURCH: What sort of new thinking?

What sort of new approach?

Because each leader of each nation is only really concerned about their own population at this juncture, aren't they?

CARROLL: That is exactly what we need to change. We see that, in fact, the variants can merge anywhere, it's not just Brazil. We have seen new variants emerging in Los Angeles, in New York, newly identified in the U.K. and South Africa.

So we need to understand that, for as much as we do have to address the needs of each of our own national priorities, we can't be successful if we don't recognize that this is a global problem.

And vaccines are a powerful tool, that need to be thought of as a global tool and not simply as a national tool. The less we make these vaccines available, the more variants we are going to see emerge and, as a consequence, we put our long term safety at risk.

CARROLL: You mentioned the need for countries to ensure their citizens wear masks and social distance and, in Brazil specifically, it is not doing its part.

And a lot of the problem there is the cavalier approach of the president. He isn't wearing masks or social distancing and even punishing some members of his own cabinet, his ministry, if they try to enforce any of this.

How can you -- how can you battle that problem?

We have seen this not just in Brazil, in other countries as well, where national leadership has in fact failed to lead and have in fact compounded the problem. Clearly there needs to be a serious reckoning within Brazil and every country, the United States as well, that face masks are one of the most powerful tools we have.

And we need to de-politicize these public health measures and really begin to appreciate that they are our best, immediate tool for bringing this virus under control. If we don't do that, then we have a very serious problem ahead of. Us

CHURCH: The U.S. already having problems with Texas and Mississippi, on the wearing of masks and restrictions. So we will see what happens there, Dennis Carroll, thank you for talking with us.

CARROLL: Thank you very much.

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CHURCH: COVID cases in England are still falling but a new study suggests that the decline is slowing. Researchers from Imperial College London also found infections are becoming more prevalent in places like London and the South East. They're. Urging everyone to stick to the guidelines, especially as the country prepares to loosen restrictions.

Cases in the U.K. have fallen sharply since the measures were introduced but health experts warn that they could be extended if infections rise again.

Next on CNN NEWSROOM, a sharp divide over a new war crimes probe by the International Criminal Court focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Plus the Duchess of Sussex is accusing Buckingham Palace of spreading lies about her. The story behind a new royal scandal just ahead.

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CHURCH: A furious response from Israel after the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor announced a probe of alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories. Let's go to senior international correspondent Sam Kiley in Jerusalem for the details and reactions.

Good to see you, Sam.

What will be the focus of this probe?

And what is Israel saying about this?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Israelis, in the form of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, call it undiluted anti-Semitism, saying also that the court doesn't have jurisdiction to go after the Jewish state, which he says is the only democracy in the Middle East, whilst, in his view, the International Criminal Court is ignoring the actions of countries like Iran, what is going on in Syria and so on.

It has also been welcomed, strangely enough, by Hamas, the power that rules in Gaza, although Hamas is also named as an organization that will be subjected to investigations by the International Criminal Court, along with what is called Palestinian groups.

One can assume that that would also include Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for example, another militant group also accused (INAUDIBLE). They have been firing dozens and dozens of missiles, along with Hamas into Israeli military territory.

There are three areas of investigation, what happened in the 2014 Gaza war and what is going on, what happened during the so-called march of return in 2018, when there were significant deaths inside Gaza, particularly along the Israeli fence but there was also violence elsewhere.

More problematically perhaps, Rosemary, is what has been going on in the Jewish settlements built on the West Bank, which the international community's broad agreement is a violation of international law and the construction of housing and the movement of populations inside what is called occupied territories illegal under the Geneva Convention number 4.

For many people that would not constitute what we broadly understand to be a war crime so called. But it is going to be very problematic, indeed, in the future for Israelis. There are some concerns, certainly from the Israeli perspective, that former members and serving members of the Israeli defense forces could be somehow indicted.

But this is something the Israelis say that they will fight and fight until it is rendered null and void, in the words of Benjamin Netanyahu.

CHURCH: Many thanks to our Sam Kiley, joining us live from Jerusalem.

Meghan Markle says Buckingham Palace is spreading lies about her. She and Prince Harry interviewed with Oprah Winfrey for U.S. television network CBS. Here is a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: How do you feel about the palace hearing you speak, your truth today?

MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent. If there is an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us and if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there is a lot that has been lost already.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: The other side of the story, Buckingham Palace says it's

going to investigate claims of Meghan bullying some staff members. A British media report came out this week, citing some sources. They say there was a complaint against her, the same year the couple got married in 2018. Max Foster is following the story for us.

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MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: "The Times" newspaper here in the U.K. published an article on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. They said that this complaint claimed the Duchess of Sussex forced out two personal assistants from her Kensington Palace household and undermined the confidence of a third member of staff.

Now CNN hasn't been able to corroborate these claims, but the report goes on to say that these sources believed that the public should have insights into their side of the story, ahead of the couple's highly- anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday. It'll be their first sit-down interview since they relocated.

A spokesperson for the Sussexes dismissed the report in "The Times" as a calculated smear campaign ahead of the couple's interview with Winfrey -- Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire, England.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Journalist and royal commentator Sandro Monetti joins me now live.

Good to see. You

SANDRO MONETTI, JOURNALIST AND ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you.

So Meghan and Harry have stepped down from the royal family but they have not backed down from a fight. This is a game of thrones and the palace is so nervous to see what verbal bombs Meghan and Harry are going to drop to Oprah.

CHURCH: I want to talk about the timing of all of this because we're counting down to this interview with Oprah, Buckingham Palace now launching a probe into allegations that Meghan Markle bullied royal aides back in 2018. This all coming just days before this tell-all interview.

What is going on here?

MONETTI: You and I have been in this business long enough never to believe in coincidences. This seems to be a strategic fightback to show that two can play at that game.

Now Meghan and Harry are very, very good at self publicity but less skilled at diplomacy. What we have here is a PR war. There is no coincidence in the fact that this story suddenly comes out before this interview. CHURCH: Yes, if these royal aides had a problem with Meghan and

Harry, why are we only hearing about this now, as the tell-all interview is about to come out?

It does stink a little bit, doesn't it?

MONETTI: Oh, it stinks very badly indeed. All the "Duchess Difficult" stories are gumming out. I admire Meghan so much, is a strong woman, she speaks to her mind and so should she, she is fantastic.

But the key in this interview is to put her side of the story but at the same time not pick a fight with the queen, because history shows us that there is only ever one winner there.

CHURCH: Indeed. But we also have to ask, why Meghan and Harry felt the need to do this tell-all interview at this time, when they had broken away from royal life.

Why not just go off into the sunset and enjoy their new lives?

What is this all about?

MONETTI: You know, I get confused by the statements of this couple. They say they want to stay away from publicity but I'm not sure how giving a prime time interview to Oprah squares with that.

You mentioned the point of timing. Let's not forget here that Prince Philip is seriously ill in hospital. I think Harry's plays should be at his grandfather's bedside, not with James Corden on an open top bus in Los Angeles and then days later sitting down for Oprah for a TV interview. The timing is rotten.

CHURCH: And also want to talk about what you think may come out of this tell-all interview because it is interesting; just in that preview, we hear Meghan Markle reference la firm, of course, referring to the royals and all of their aides and advisors that surround. Them

What did you make of all of that?

What do you think will be the big surprise here that we will hear? About

MONETTI: The firm, also known as the men in gray suits, also known as the establishment, has been around for years. They have never quite met anyone as skilled modern or media savvy as Meghan. There was a clash clearly that has gone on.

As to what has come out of this, I don't think a peaceful solution, let's have an end to all of this, Harry and his brother, William, were just starting to get close again, this really fractures the relationship again. I don't see anything but a game of thrones but much more vicious.

CHURCH: We did see in another preview Prince Harry talking about his mother, wondering how she ever coped with this by herself. At least he and Meghan have each other. There is this a sense of them being isolated and it is a daunting situation.

[02:25:00]

CHURCH: Talk to us about where you think all of that is going?

Because it seems very dark, doesn't it, these references?

MONETTI: That was a poignant quote indeed. It makes me reflect on the fact that maybe Harry hasn't had all the support that he needs. There. It is wonderful that he is finding it in Meghan.

But when Harry and Meghan were a couple entering the royal family, this was such a wonderful opportunity, especially with their love of charity and compassion, to do all that good work within the royal family.

I always think that they are stronger together. But now they just haven't been able to find a solution. And, yes, they fractured. But this relationship is blown further apart each time. And I don't see any solution in the near future. It is getting worse.

CHURCH: Yes and, at the same time, Meghan is no Princess Di, as you say, she is very savvy. They may have taken on more than they thought possible right here. We will see what happens on Sunday. Sandro Monetti, great to talk to you.

MONETTI: Likewise.

CHURCH: There is another royal controversy, this one involving 2 princesses from Spain, Princesses Elena and Cristina got their COVID vaccines in Abu Dhabi, long before they would've received them in their home countries. Several Spanish ministers criticize them on Wednesday.

Princess Elena responded, saying, they got the shots while visiting their father, Spain's former king Juan Carlos. he is living in Abu Dhabi following a scandal about his finances. And his daughters say they got vaccinated so that they could get a health passport to see him more regularly.

Security concerns and the pandemic are not keeping the pope from Iran, why he is pushing ahead with the historic visit and what it means to long suffering Iraqi Christians.

And later, with the lights still down on Broadway, some of the world's most talented performers are turning to Australia, one of the few places where theaters are back in business during the pandemic. Back with that in just a moment.

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CHURCH: An American civilian contractor suffered a heart attack and died during the rocket attack on an air base in Iraq Wednesday. Damage assessments are underway after least 10 rockets were fired at the al- Asad base outside Baghdad, which is used by U.S., Iraqi and coalition troops.

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CHURCH: The U.S. secretary of state says the United States will respond.

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TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The first thing we have to do is get to the bottom of it and find out, to the best of our ability, who, in fact, is responsible. Then I think the president has been very clear that we will take appropriate action in a place and at the time of our choosing.

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CHURCH: This comes almost a week after the U.S. military struck a site in Syria used by Iranian-backed militias, responding to previous attacks on coalition forces. That was President Biden's first known military action. Wednesday's rocket fire could mean that the violence is escalating.

This comes just as the pope has a first trip to Iraq, which he's vowing not to cancel despite concerns over security and the COVID-19 situation. Our Ben Wedeman is covering his historic tour from Baghdad.

Ben, there has been a lot of questions about the wisdom of this visit at a time like this, particularly -- you and I have talked about this -- given the COVID situation. Talk to us about that, the preparation for his arrival and the Christian population that are waiting for him.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Preparations have been quite extensive in Baghdad, Irbil and other parts of the country, we have seen posters going up, welcoming the pope.

It is not just, of course, the Christian population here that is excited about this visit; many Muslims as well see it as a recognition by the pope of Iraq's central place in the history of the monotheistic religions.

As far as the Christian population goes, they are very happy about this visit but they've lived through some very difficult times. Keep in mind that, over the last 40 years, Iraq has had a horrendous war with Iran during the '80s.

There was the Kuwait invasion followed by the international sanctions on this country, followed by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation and the chaos that followed that, followed by the war with ISIS.

And the Christians have really been at the front lines of all of that. What we have seen, for instance, since 2003, is that the Christian population of Iraq has dwindled from around 1.5 million people, back then, to perhaps as little as 300,000 today. Many Christians, who are still here, that you speak to, you will tell

you that if they had the opportunity, they would leave Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A bell summons the faithful to the church in this city of Irbil in northern Iraq. Christianity's roots run deep here.

Prayers conducted in the local dialogue of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. But his flock 100 years ago, which made up 20 percent of the population of the Middle East, has dwindled to below single digits.

An ISIS mortar killed a 4-year old in 2014 outside of home near Mosul. His mother, Dhoha (ph), sees no point in staying.

"If someone will take us, away I'll be the first one to emigrate," she tells me, "I wouldn't hesitate one moment. Me and my husband and my family will get dressed and go and leave everything else behind."

Over the last century, revolutions, wars, chaos, suppression and intolerance have driven many Christians abroad. In the last 20 years, however, it's gone from bad to worse, culminating in ISIS' reign of terror, from Iraq to Syria, to Egypt.

The group gave Christians under its sway a stark choice: a tax on non-Muslims, convert, flee or die.

The Muslim majority in the Middle East will remain indifferent to the plight of minorities, the archbishop of Irbil believes, until the majority starts to tear itself apart. Iraq's once dazzling diversity is fast disappearing, including the smallest communities, like the Mandaeans, followers of a pre-Islamic monotheistic faith that has all but vanished from Iraq.

[02:35:00]

BASHAR WARDA, CHALDEAN ARCHBISHOP OF IRBIL: What's frighting (ph) me, is that during this period no one have asked what we for example, have lost when we have a declining number of the Mandaean, for example, and now the Yazidis, Christians. They don't care about this as they did not care when we lost the Jewish community back in the '40s, '50s and '60s and the cycle is ongoing.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): If that cycle carries on, worries Archbishop Warda, Iraq will destroy itself; 21 years ago, Sabah Zaitoun moved to Sweden, now home to a large Arab Christian community. He's back in Irbil for a brief visit; those who have left, he believes, have left for good.

"I don't think anyone will return from Europe," he says. "That would be difficult."

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WEDEMAN (voice-over): In a stadium in Irbil, rehearsals are underway for Pope Francis' upcoming visit, the first time a pope from Rome has set foot in this land, where Christians and so many others have suffered so much, for so long.

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WEDEMAN (voice-over): Their voices, they hope, finally being heard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: And one thing you often hear from Christians here, is that there are so many Iraqi Christians now living abroad, it has sort of reached a critical mass, where the center of gravity has moved outside of the country, that they get pictures and videos from relatives in Australia, Canada, Sweden and elsewhere.

And that draw to leave is now getting sort of inextrable (sic), drawing them out of the country -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to our Ben Wedeman, with that report from Baghdad. We appreciate it.

Still to come, Broadway down under, actors out of work in the pandemic are finding a new stage and new audiences in Australia.

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CHURCH (voice-over): Not a good look. It all started out so well for this Mars rocket prototype made by SpaceX. It nailed its landing for the first time during Wednesday's test flight. But just minutes later, this happened. The rocket exploded on the landing pad. It's unclear what caused the explosion.

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CHURCH: For the past year, it's been lights out for much of the theater industry. The pandemic has forced Broadway shows in New York to shut down, leaving thousands of performers out of work.

But some have found new opportunities on the other side of the world, Sydney, Australia, where live theater is back open for business. CNN's Will Ripley reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The brilliant lights of Broadway, dark for almost a year. New York's iconic theaters empty, likely for many months to come. Nearly 10,000 miles away, in Sydney, Australia, the show goes on. "Kismet," created by Broadway performer Reed Kelly and Australian acrobat Jack Dawson, the aerial straps duo Two Fathoms.

REED KELLY, BROADWAY PERFORMER: Right now, this is really the only place that both of us can be and do we do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You good?

RIPLEY (voice-over): What they do takes hours of daily practice, discipline, athleticism, sacrifice.

KELLY: I'm away from my family. I'm not at home. I don't get to see my husband. We FaceTime every day, but it's -- it's been such a challenge.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Kelly's husband, a doctor in Los Angeles.

KELLY: I'm good, how's your day?

RIPLEY (voice-over): They've been apart for almost a year. If Kelly leaves Australia, his visa won't allow him to return. Sydney, one of the only places in the world where theaters have reopened.

DAWSON: We seem to be doing really well. We're really grateful to be here, where everything seems to be really under control.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Broadway star Gabrielle McClinton just returned to the U.S. She spent months in Australia as the lead player in "Pippin." The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical was a smash hit in Sydney.

RIPLEY: Does that give you hope about Broadway?

GABRIELLE MCCLINTON, ACTOR: Absolutely. It definitely had its challenges, but we got through the season. And people came to the show wearing their masks. And we would get COVID tested every week. And when we were onstage, we were in our masks and everybody obeyed all rules. And we did our due diligence when we were outside of the theater to make sure that we weren't putting people at risk.

RIPLEY (voice-over): A model for reopening Broadway and beyond, says Australian playwright Tom Wright.

TOM WRIGHT, BELVOIR STREET THEATRE ARTISTIC ASSOCIATE: You need political and social leadership to provide a safe set of circumstances for the theater to reopen.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Sydney's Belvoir Street Theater has been open for five months. Strict COVID-19 lockdowns worked, virtually eliminating local cases.

WRIGHT: The reason why Sydney has been able to reopen is because people at, local, state and federal levels took seriously the safety of the most vulnerable people in their society. And we're a reflection of that.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The pandemic's devastating toll goes beyond empty theaters. Artists around the world are struggling.

KELLY: I've lost three people this year to suicide and that's on top of the people that I know that have actually died from COVID. It's not just a job for us. This is our legs.

DAWSON: We want to do this and we need to keep doing this, so we're just pushing through and hoping for better days.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Giving hope to performers everywhere, their future remains up in the air -- Will Ripley, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Australia showing how it's done.

Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. "WORLD SPORT" is coming up next.

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