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Myanmar's Street Violence Escalating by the Day; International Community Must Act Against Myanmar's Military; Royalties Using Their Positions to Get COVID Vaccine; Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Spotlight; Alexei Navalny in Quarantine; Germany Launch Five-Stage on Reopening; Far-right Party First To Be Put Under Surveillance In Germany; ICC To Investigate Israel, Palestinians For Alleged War Crimes; Investigation Underway Into Attack On Iraqi Air Base; Pope Francis Pushing Ahead With Trip To Iraq; Funerals Held For Murdered Journalist In Afghanistan; United Kingdom Reveals New Budget As Economy Struggles; Hacking Allegations Of Microsoft Against China; Japan To Decide On Allowing Overseas Spectators By March 25; COVID-19 Sends Broadway Performers To Australia. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 4, 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, activists say the streets of Myanmar have become a war zone after the deadliest day of protests since the military seized power. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is being held in isolation. We will have a live report from Moscow.

And Buckingham Palace is investigating allegations the duchess of Sussex bullied members of her staff in 2018. And she is responding sharply.

Good to have you with us.

An urgent call for an international response after a dramatic and disturbing surge of violence across Myanmar.

Wednesday mark the deadliest day or protest that have been ongoing since the military coup one month ago. At least 38 people were killed at the hands of security forces. And video is now emerging showing the brutality on the streets as those forces escalate their crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.

Here they are seen ordering three charity workers out of their ambulance before kicking and severely beating them. The United Nations will meet behind closed doors tomorrow. But ahead of that, the U.N. special envoy to Myanmar says the international community must come together to stop the deteriorating situation.


CHRISTINE SCHRANER BURGENER, UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL ENVOY ON MYANMAR: So, every tool available are needed now to stop this situation. And that we need now a unity of the international community. So, it's up to the member states to take the right measures.


CHURCH (on camera): And right now, the U.S. says it's looking at all policy options as it weighs its response to the deadly violence.


NED PRICE, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: The loss of life. Especially the loss of life in recent days is abhorrent. As I said today, it is repulsive. We are evaluating policy measures that may be appropriate and relevant to a respond and to ensure accountability for the military's actions including their overthrow of the democratically elected Burmese government.


CHURCH (on camera): And Paula Hancocks has been monitoring this situation from her vantage point in Seoul. She joins us now live. So, Paula, what is the latest on this deadly escalation of violence against protesters?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, it's certainly clear that the level of force the security forces are now using against protesters is increasing. We have seen that increase since the weekend. As you said, Wednesday being the deadliest day for protesters since the coup happened on February 1st.

So, the number the U.N. has at this point is 38 just for that one day, they believe at least 50 have been killed since the coup. But we are hearing from some activists on the ground that they believe that that number may be much higher. It is extremely difficult to be able to gauge exactly what the fatalities and the injuries are, as there is no official tally being kept.

But certainly, what we are seeing, despite the level of force being used increasing, we are still seeing people coming out into the streets and calling for democracy, thousands still wanting to call for the reinstating of the democratically elected government. The end to what they call the military dictatorship.

Now one thing also that the U.S. special envoy from Myanmar said which had an ominous ring to it, was that she had been in contact with one of the military representatives of the military leadership and had said that there would be grave consequences from the international community. To which that representative said we are used to sanctions and we have survived them in the past. Also saying we've learned to live with only a few friends.

So really up until this point, Rosemary, all of the international condemnation and the moves from the rest of the world doesn't seem to have done anything to convince the military to pull back in any way. In fact, if anything we have seen the level of violence being used against protesters increase in the last few days.

CHURCH: Yes. Paula Hancocks. Many thanks. Joining us live from Seoul.


Simon Adams is executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. The group works to prevent and stop mass atrocities. Thank you for being with us.


CHURCH: Now at least 38 people were killed in Myanmar's crackdown on protesters Wednesday according to the U.N. special envoy, who called it the bloodiest day since the coup happened. What's your response to this deadly military crackdown?

ADAMS: Well, look, I woke up in New York this morning to images being sent to me from people inside Myanmar. E-mails that we got at the Global Centre being tagged in social media posts. A terrible, bloody, horrible day in Myanmar. Thirty-eight people dead, as you said. Including, I think, it has to be said, two teenage boys and a teenage girl.

The deaths took place in five cities. So, we see despite the military making these massive, violent attacks on people there are still protests all across the country. We've seen a couple of things today that I think we've seen -- haven't really seen before in the same sort of way, attacks on military medical volunteers, attacks on journalists, even threatening to shoot people who are just standing off the streets, filming things from their iPhones from their own apartments.

So, I think, you know, we are at a point now where the statements of concern from the international community is just not going to cut it. We are going to need some serious action.

CHURCH: So, you say serious action. What sort of things need to be done by the international community? Because a lot of them are calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. They are calling for no sanctions to be applied. But nobody is actually doing anything. So, what do you want to see done?

ADAMS: Right. I mean, I think there are four things that should happen straight away, and can happen and can be done by governments on a bilateral basis and could also be done by regional organizations. One, there should be a total arms embargo on Myanmar to deprive them of that weapons they're using against their own people. Two, targeted sanctions on the generals including Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief who is now, of course, leader of the coup.

Thirdly, divestment from all these international businesses which are tied up with the military in Myanmar. And fourthly, absolutely no recognition for this illegitimate military government. I think those are just four things to start with that would increase the pressure on the people who are leading the coup.

CHURCH: China is not helping in any of those efforts at all though, is it? It's really a barrier to anything being done.

ADAMS: Absolutely. The Chinese have defended Myanmar at the U.N. Security Council. They did that in 2017 when there was a genocide committed against the Rohingya population in Rakhine state, committed by the way by the general who is now trying to lead the country.

And so, they are an obstacle to international action happening at the U.N. Security Council. But as I said, that doesn't stop states from doing things on a bilateral basis. I think also people need to send a signal to the Chinese that if they want to be a superpower in the world, if they want to use soft power and show that they are responsible citizens, then they can't stand behind genocidal generals who are crushing democracy and declaring war on their own people because they lost an election.

CHURCH: So why is this not being done?

ADAMS: Well, I think pressure is building. You know, again, I really feel for people on those streets of Myanmar who are sending us e-mails every day saying where is the world? Then when will things move beyond statements and concerns to actual action. And I think we're starting to see some signs of that.

We're starting to see companies divest from businesses in Myanmar. We're starting to see people look at either existing sanctions or re- imposing sanctions, or imposing new sanctions on the generals. But we need it to happen, and we need it to happen to quicker than what it is.

CHURCH: And of course, we know at this stage, more than 50 people have been killed since the start of this coup. About 1,200 protesters have been detained. What is likely to happen to those people? And how far do you think the military is willing to go with this crackdown, given protesters they remain defiant? They will be getting out on the streets pushing back.

ADAMS: Incredibly brave. Incredibly brave. And I think, you know, everybody has to be, you know, stand in solidarity with that. Certainly, overall by particularly the young people who are out there on the streets and really imaginative ways trying to show their opposition to this coup. And I have great fears for their safety and for security. Especially anybody who has been arrested.

You know, this is in military with incredibly bloody hands. And keep in mind, when you see how far are they willing to go -- this again is a military that committed genocide in Rakhine state in 2017.


So they've shown that they are prepared to go as far as any military can go with these things. I'm not saying that we are going to have a pre-genocidal situation in the streets of Myanmar yet. But certainly, I think what's happening already rises to the level of crimes against humanity under international law. And we have to stop it.

CHURCH: Simon Adams, thank you so much for talking with us. I appreciate it.

ADAMS: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: The Swedish prime minister is condemning a knife attack in the town south of Stockholm on Wednesday which police are investigating as possible terrorism. They say a man stabbed eight people, seriously hurting some of them.

A suspect in his 20s has been arrested after being shot and wounded. He is said to be known to police suspected of previous minor crimes. All eight victims were taken to hospital, three have life-threatening injuries.

A Canadian man's attempt to use autism as a defense against murder charges has failed. Alek Minassian was found guilty on 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder after he drove a rented van onto a busy sidewalk in Toronto in 2018.

Minassain told police he wanted to punish society because he was constantly rejected by women. The judge rejected the defense argument that his autism disorder kept him from understanding his actions were wrong.

Well, still to come, royal backlash in Spain after the king's sisters received their COVID-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi. Why the princesses say they couldn't turn down the offer.

Plus, amid growing pressure, Germany is planning to gradually lift coronavirus restrictions. Coming up. a look at the phased approach.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, a stunning development in the growing tension between the duke and duchess of Sussex and Buckingham Palace. In a new clip from the upcoming Oprah Winfrey interview with the couple, Meghan accuses the royal family of perpetuating falsehoods.


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.


CHURCH (on camera): That clip is being released just after Buckingham Palace said it will investigate bullying allegations against the duchess of Sussex made in a British media report, citing unnamed royal aide who say Meghan's behavior towards staff was so troubling that it led to a complaint back in 2018.


CNN royal correspondent Max Foster is in London, he joins us now live. Good to see you, Max.

It's worth mentioning these complaints were made back in 2018, and now they're being investigated? So why are we hearing about this now, just days before Meghan and Harry's tell-all interview is aired?

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is a genuine feeling within all the palaces, everyone did everything they could to support the duchess of Sussex and they don't recognize the narrative that she is developing that, you know, this is the most extraordinary claim that we've had so far, that the police is actually actively working against her and Harry.

They feel there is a different side to the story, and they spoke to the Times on Tuesday about that, about this complaint that was sent to human resources at Buckingham Palace basically that the two personal assistants were forced out of the duchesses household, another one felt undermined by the duchess.

And so, this was all part of the palace, or certain group within the palace trying to explain that there is a different side to the story. Obviously, the palace has a policy of not responding to everything, but I think some in the palace felt that there had been too much silence.

That led to Buckingham Palace saying we will look again at these complaints and investigate them properly. And then we get this clip that you just played out, which is extraordinary. It is worth noting that we think it was recorded about two weeks ago, certainly recorded before any of these bullying allegations came out. So, the timing is interesting as well from the Sussex side, I think. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Might she be referring to it in that preview.

FOSTER: Sorry, Rosemary? I didn't catch that.

CHURCH: What falsehoods might she be referring to in that preview we aired?

FOSTER: Well, based on what she said in the past, and we don't know more than what we've just seen there. But they have consistently spoken about how the tabloid media put pressure on them, and they felt a need effectively to flee that. And they end up over there in California.

But there is also a narrative that the duchess has been developing which is that the palace didn't protect the duke and duchess of Sussex against those tabloid attacks, and I think that's probably what she is saying here. That the stories were developing out there in the media, and the palace weren't stepping into intervene and prevent them from happening. The palace view on this is that there is clearly a protocol, they

don't respond to media speculation, otherwise you would be responding to absolutely everything. So that I think would be their side on this. But we have to see the full two hours on Sunday to really make sense of what the duchess is claiming. But in terms of where the narrative is being up until now, I think that's how this one fits in.

CHURCH: Certainly, there has been much hype, so we'll all be watching on Sunday to see what all this revealed. CNN royal correspondent Max Foster joining us live from London, many thanks.

Well, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in quarantine while being held at a detention center, that is according to his lawyer who says Navalny is being isolated with two other people at a detention center east of Moscow.

Once he is transferred to the colony, Navalny will serve two and a half years for violating the probation terms of a 2014 case. Navalny was detained by Russian police in January after returning from Germany where he failed to check in with probation authorities because he was recovering from Novichok poisoning, many blame on the Russian government.

So, let's turn to CNN's Matthew Chance, he joins us live from Moscow. So, Matthew, talk to us more about this and concerns about Navalny's whereabouts.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we kind of lost track of him for about a weekend of bit since he was sentenced, since he was handed that jail term when he was suspended sentence was converted into actual jail time. He was then sort of taken out of Moscow to an undisclosed location and nobody knew where he was. I mean, in terms of his family members, his legal team around him, and you know, there was a lot of speculation about where he might pop up.

He actually popped up yesterday with a message on Instagram, and his lawyers spoke to us as well, saying that he is in the detention center in the Vladimir region. He basically said on social media, sort of an indication that he's doing fine, that he's got an exercise yard, that his cell is pretty bare and that he is with a couple of other people.


Where he is going to go next is, I think the big question, because there are lots of media speculation. In fact, state media has been quoting sources saying that he's going to be going to a prison colony in that same region, the Vladimir region which is about, you know, 100 kilometers, 60 miles or so outside of Moscow.

We don't know which prison colony exactly, penal colony he is going to go to. One of them, which has been a possible option is known as being one of the toughest penal colonies in the European parts of Russia. And so that's a distinct possibility he could be sent there, but at the moment he still in the detention center which is sort of like a grade lower than a penal colony, if you like, and we don't know where the permanent location is going to be, that he'll spend the rest of his two and a half year behind bars.

CHURCH: All right. We will ensure we stay on top of this. Matthew Chance bringing us the latest there from Moscow. I appreciate it.

Well, two Spanish princesses are facing backlash after receiving COVID vaccination in Abu Dhabi much earlier than they would've gotten them in Spain. A digital newspaper reported Princes Elena and Cristina were vaccinated while visiting their father, former King Juan Carlos.

In response, the sisters say they were offered the shot while attempting to get a health passport so they could see their father more regularly.

And for more we want to go to journalist Al Goodman, he joins us live from Madrid. Good to see you, Al. So, what's been the level of backlash from this royal drama in Spain?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: The level of backlash, Rosemary, was swift and at a very high level, right up to the cabinet, the Spanish government cabinet. Several members of the cabinet, the labor minister, the territories minister, the economy minister, and one of the deputy prime ministers, all on Wednesday morning were out talking about this, what they called an early vaccine by the two princesses, these members of the royal family, Elena and Cristina.

There was enough noise that by mid-day on Wednesday, Princess Elena issued a statement in the name of both -- in the both of her and her sister, that was issued not through a public relations, not through their lawyer but sent by her, we are told, CNN is told, to a series of Spanish journalist who regularly cover the royal palace.

And even though these two sisters have not been actively involved with the royal family in official duties in recent years, they still have their contacts. So, this was sent out just three paragraphs, CNN was able to see a copy of this. And it says what you just mentioned that they said they were visiting their father, the former king who went to Abu Dhabi last August because of some financial scandals, he left Spain, that's where he has been living since last August, the 83-year- old former king.

They went to see him and they said that they were offered the vaccine, they wanted to get a health certificate so that they could go and see him more frequently. But here in Spain they would've had to wait much longer, they're in their mid-50s.

Spain like a lot of European Union countries, has delays in its vaccine program due to limited supply. So, they are behind the United States, Britain and Israel, for instance, Spain, Germany, France, the European Union countries. So, there is a lot of concern. And while even some healthcare workers have not gotten the vaccine yet, now the two princesses have gotten it.

So, the Spain's royal palace said King Felipe, the current king, and his wife and their two daughters, teenagers, the two princesses will wait their turn and follow the rules. So that's the kind of backlash that you are getting, basically, Elena

and Cristina, those two princesses were already separated from their main official royal duties years ago by their brother when he took -- when he took power in 2014 after his father abdicated.

But clearly, in a country that has still got curfews, lockdowns, people are waiting just 1.3 million Spaniards have gotten the vaccination so far in a country of 47 million. So, you can see that all people think why would these two ladies get it, why do we have to wait in Spain? Rosemary?

CHURCH (on camera): Yes, understandable. Al Goodman joining us live from Madrid. Many thanks.

Well, Germany soon will begin easing its coronavirus restrictions. Chancellor Angela Merkel has laid out a five-stage approach to reopening. Starting Monday up to five adults from two households will be allowed to meet and bookstores can reopen. However, the chancellor warns they will reverse course if the number of new cases gets out of control.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Politicians' task now is to take the next step wisely. There should be opening steps without setting ourselves back during this pandemic. There are many examples in Europe of a dramatic third wave in this danger and we should not dilute ourselves. They also exist for us. We must always keep this in mind.



CHURCH (on camera): She also says that the country is expected to authorize the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65, saying recent studies have shown the vaccine's effectiveness in the elderly.

Well, Greece is extending and tightening its coronavirus restrictions across hard-hit regions including Athens. The country is battling a surge in cases. On Wednesday, Greece recorded more than 2,700 infections, its highest number of new cases in more than three months. People in affected areas will be allowed only essential travels until at least March 16th.

Brazil, Sao Paulo state will enter a red phase of restrictions following the country's deadliest day of the pandemic so far. Brazil's health ministry reported more than 1,900 COVID deaths on Wednesday, breaking a record set on Tuesday. Sao Paulo's red phase will last at least two weeks starting at midnight on Saturday forcing any nonessential business to close.

Brazil also reported nearly 72,000 new infections on Wednesday, the director of the Pan American Health Organization says action needs to be taken to help all areas of the Amazon who are quickly being overwhelmed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARISSA ETIENNE, DIRECTOR, PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We remain concerned by a rising cases within the northern Amazon basin that demands a swift response. The Amazonian state (Inaudible) sees this a declared emergency due to a deadly combination of COVID-19 infections, a dengue the epidemic, and flooding in several cities.


CHURCH (on camera): Meanwhile, Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal are some of the latest countries to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX program. The program partnered with the World Health Organization has given over 10 million shots to 15 countries, mostly in Africa.

CNN's Kim Brunhuber reports.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Touching down in Nairobi, COVID-19 vaccinations arrive in Kenya for the very first time. It becomes one of the latest countries to receive doses as a global vaccine sharing program rolls out across Africa.

MUTAHI KAGWE, KENYAN HEALTH MINISTER: We have been fighting this virus, but we have been fighting it with rubber bullets. What do we have received here is the equivalent, metaphorically speaking, two acquisition of machine guns, bazooka's and tanks to fight this war against COVID-19.

BRUNHUBER: Kenya received its initial shipment of just over one million doses as part of the COVAX program, an initiative backed by the World Health Organization aim at reducing vaccine inequality. It got underway last week starting with the delivery to Ghana. The country's president became one of the first to publicly get vaccinated through the program.

NANA AKUFO-ADDO, PRESIDENT OF GHANA: It is important that I set the example. This vaccine is safe by being the first to have it.

BRUNHUBER: In addition to Ghana and Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and the Ivory Coast are among the countries to recently receive low cost or free vaccines through COVAX, but it comes after a long wait, far behind wealthier nations that can pay full price. That's partially due to difficulty securing supplies from manufacturers.

Now coordinators promise that access in lower income countries will continue to accelerate.

SETH BERKLEY, CEO, GAVI, THE VACCINE ALLIANCE: We've delivered 10 million doses in 14 countries, so far. And we will now be doing at least another 10 million in the next week and scaling up from there. So, yes, not enough doses and not as quick as we would've liked, it took us 83 days from the first jab in the U.K. to the first jab in Africa, but now we are off to try to get as much as this out as we can. BRUNHUBER: I'm told COVAX aims to deliver to deliver two billion

doses by the end of this year out of over 180 total participants in the program, 92 countries qualify for cheaper or free vaccines. Low and middle-income countries are now hopefully catching up in the race to vaccinate the world against coronavirus.

Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


CHURCH (on camera): Pope Francis is forging ahead with his trip to Iraq despite a rocket attack on an air base housing U.S. troops. And when he gets there, he will find a Christian community that feels under siege in its own right.

plus, the International Criminal Court is opening a formal investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel and a Palestinian militant group. Reaction from the region coming up.




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): For the first time since the Nazi era, Germany's domestic intelligence agency has put a political party under formal surveillance. The far-right anti-immigrant alternative for Germany Party, is suspected of posing a threat to democracy. Intelligence agents are now allowed to tap member's calls and eavesdrop on their communications.

This comes four years after the AFDC, entered parliament becoming its third largest party, it had capitalized on anger about the decision to allow 1 million asylum seekers into the country. And its popularity has fallen since then.

Israel is reacting furiously to the international criminal court announcement that it will investigate the country for alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories. The court chief prosecutor says it will focus on events beginning in June 2014, and is expected to look closely at the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza that summer, as well as other instances of violence. It will also look at alleged war crimes by Palestinian militant groups, Israel's president is calling the probe into Israel's actions scandalous.

So, let's go to senior international correspondent, Sam Kiley, joins us live from Jerusalem, good to see you Sam. So, what all will the focus of this probe be? Talk to us about that and of course reactions there from Israel.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, the Israeli reaction first Rosemary, and diluted, antisemitism in the view of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who went on to say in a statement, a very angry statement indeed that he will fight this investigation and the rulings that led to it within the international criminal court until it is rendered in his words, null and void.

Principal elements of the argument against it, it is not necessarily an argument that they can make any longer at the international criminal court, because that institution has moved beyond the issues, that Israel is likely to raise, which is one principally of jurisdiction saying that Israel is outside of the jurisdiction of this investigation.

The view of the international criminal court is that the Palestinian territory, Gaza, Easter -- east on the West Bank is within that purview and it is meeting the request of what the court calls the Palestinian state as the complainant in this case. Of course, the Palestinian state as far as Israel and many others are concerned, doesn't get exist. That should be the product in their view of future negotiations. Nonetheless, the focus of this investigation, Rosemary, is really in three areas. The conduct of both sides or all sides during the 2014 Gaza war.


The events of what were called the March of return in 2018 when there were a number of deaths, particularly in Gaza, and then more widely an investigation into the Jewish settlements that have been build by the cross the West bank, which in the view of the international communities or most men in the international community are illegal under international law that force Geneva convention are being violated there.

Whether or not that amounts to something such as a crime against humanity or a war crime, is, I think, a pretty arguable point. And a points that the Israelis will argue down the line, I think officials are also going to be pointing to why there is no investigation of Russia, for example, for the annexation of the Crimea on the invasion of Ukraine, Rosemary.

CHURCH (on camera): Alright. Many thanks to our Sam Kiley, joining us live from Jerusalem.

Well, the United States is considering how to respond after at least 10 rockets hit an airbase in Iraq that houses U.S. troops. An American civilian contractor died of a heart attack during Wednesday's attack at the Al-Asad base outside Baghdad.

It comes almost a week after the U.S. military struck a sight in Syria used by Iranian-back militias, in response to previous attacks on coalition forces. In light of the recent assault, the U.S. Secretary of State says those responsible must be held accountable.


ANTHONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES 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, and 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. In the case of the earlier attacks, the first thing we did was to make

sure that we understood who was responsible, and that took some time. And then we worked very closely with our Iraqi partners to make that determination, and then to take clear action to demonstrate that these things could not go forward without impunity.


CHURCH (on camera): And this comes just days ahead of the pope's visit to Iraq, he is vowing not to cancel the three-day trip despite increasing concerns over security and Iraq's coronavirus situation. And this will be Pope Francis's first trip in 15 months, and he says he does not want to disappoint the Iraqi people. Of course when the pope arrives, he is going to find a Christian community that is increasingly feeling like a stranger in its own land.

So let's go straight to Iraq with CNN's Ben Wedeman, joins us live from Baghdad. Good to see you, Ben. So what does the future hold for this ancient Christian community in Iraq?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, their future is very much in doubt. What we have seen since 2003, in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is that the Christian population here is dwindled from around 1.5 million, to only about 300,000. And you know, the government here, like many other governments in the Middle East, is essentially dysfunctional, largely in different, to the plight of the population at large. And in particular, to the plight of the Christians.


WEDEMAN (voice over): A bell summons the fateful to the church of (inaudible) St. George in this city of Erbil in northern Iraq. Christianity roots run deep here. Prayers conducted in the local dialect, of Aramaic the language Jesus spoke. But its flock with 100 years ago made up about 20 percent of the population of the Middle East, has dwindled to the low single digits.

An ISIS martyr killed four year old, David (Inaudible) in 2014, outside his home in (inaudible) Mosul.

His mother Doha, sees no point in staying.

If someone will take us away I will be the first one to emigrate, she tells me. I wouldn't hesitate one moment. Me in my husband and my family, we'll 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 has gone from bad, to worse. Culminating an ISIS's reign of terror, from Iraq to Syria, to Egypt. The group gave Christians under its sway stark choice, pay jizyah, a tax on non-Muslims, convert, flee or die.

[03:40:00] The Muslim majority in the Middle East will remain indifferent to the

plight of minorities, called DN archbishop of Erbil (inaudible) believes until the majority starts to tear itself apart. Iraq's once dazzling diversity is fast disappearing, including the smallest communities, like the Mandeans. Followers of a pre-Islamic monotheistic faith that has all but vanished from Iraq.

BASHAR WARDA, CHALDEAN ARCHBISHOP OF ERBIL, IRAQ: What's frightening me is that during this period, no one have ask what we for example have lost when have a declining number of (inaudible) for example. And now the Yazidis, Christians. They do not care about this. As they did not care when we lost the Jewish community. Back in the 40s, and 50s and 60s, and this cycle is going.

WEDEMAN: If that cycle carries on where his Archbishop Guarda, Iraq will destroy itself. 21 years ago, (inaudible) moved to Sweden, now home to a large Arab Christian community, he is back in Erbil 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.

In the stadium in Erbil, rehearsals are underway for Pope Francis's upcoming visit, the first time a pope from Rome has stepped foot in this land where Christians and so many others have suffered so much, for so long. Their voices, they hope, finally being heard.


CHURCH (on camera): Ben Wedeman bringing us that report from Baghdad.

Well, in Afghanistan, the families of three murdered female journalist held a prayer services and buried their loved ones on Wednesday. The women were gunned down on Tuesday evening after leaving work, the latest example of rising violence in Afghanistan.

An Afghan police say they have a rested a key suspect in connection with the murders, officials believe the man who has links to the Taliban, planned the murders, the Taliban spokesperson denied any involvement.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh looks back at the events of the last two days.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Among the terrifying regular assassination in Afghanistan, this one stood out. Three female journalists, in their twenties murdered with a silent pistol outside the TV news channel where they worked. Shot at 4:30 as they walked home together, Saadia Sadat and Shahnaz Raufi age 20 and 28.

And then Mursal Waheedi, age 20 killed at the same time in another part of the city. Even in the city, inured to daily violence as the Taliban's wraith grows across the country, where their woman's T.V. anchor colleague Malala Maiwandi, age 26 was shot dead in December, they were still shock in the ceremony (inaudible). The murders claimed by ISIS in Afghanistan, a level of savagery and

not should above the violence in the Taliban who condemned the attack. Weather it was because the women were journalists or women journalist, ISIS did not specify. They worked in a dubbing department for foreign language translation. Their relatives begged for the violence to stop.

She was my little sister, he says, a shy but active girl. She always fight for women's rights, she hope to go to University and study law, but as you see, we buried her with all her hopes here.

You can see in the aftermath how they worked in a man's world. Rights for women something embryonic even after the nearly billion dollars the U.S. has spent on it. And now, a likely casualty of Americas rushed to the exits, two of the dead would never have known Afghanistan without U.S. Troops in it, but now as an agreement with Washington look set to give the Taliban a grip on some of the levers of power as well as land.

Two decades of war may leave Afghans back where they started before 9/11. Not that these three young brave women will be there to find out. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.




CHURCH (on camera): The U.K. government is extending many of its emergency financial policies designed to keep the economy afloat during the pandemic. But it is also trying to lay out a plan to pay for that massive effort, Scott Mclean has the details now from London.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It is difficult to imagine a more consequential U.K. budget than the one that has just been delivered the, coronavirus pandemic has killed off some 700,000 jobs in the U.K. and made almost 5 million people reliant on the government in some way to subsidize their wages. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak says that the government has now borrowed on this kind of scale since the world war. So, while the economic outlook for this country is grim, it is better than expected because of the vaccination campaign.

RISHI SUNAK, UNITED KINGDOM CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: The NHS, deserving of immense praise as had extraordinary success in vaccinating more than 20 million people across the United Kingdom. And combined with our economic response, one of the most comprehensive and generous in the world, this means that office for budget responsibility, are now forecasting in their words, a swifter and more sustained recovery, then they expected in November. The (inaudible) now expect the economy to return to its pre-COVID level by the middle of next year, six months earlier than previously thought.

MCLEAN: Now this country is still under a national lockdown and so the chancellor acknowledge that more spending would be required on top of the 300 billion pounds that has already been spent to support the economy as it comes out of lockdown gradually.

So, the chancellor announced that tax breaks on you home purchases would be extended for a few more months, businesses affected by the pandemic would be eligible for grants above 18,000 pounds, and the government furlough scheme's which sees the government subsidizing up to 80 percent of the workers wage because of loss work due to the pandemic, would continue till the end of September to accommodate even the most pessimistic timeline for lifting lockdown restrictions.

On the other hand, the debt that this country has accumulated is almost equal to the annual size of its entire economy. And Sunak made clear that that money would need to be paid back. So while there will be no increase in personal income tax rate, the tax threshold will be frozen in place next year, which will raise more money for the government.


And the corporate tax rate on large corporations will also rise from 19 percent to 25 percent. The chancellor also acknowledged that some companies have done better during the pandemic, and he made clear that he wants to unlock the cash reserves that they have built up. And so he is trying to incentivize companies to spend those investments in this country, offering them a tax deduction, a super tax deduction as he calls it, of 130 percent of their investments.

He also announced the number of free ports across the country offering cheaper customs and duties and lower taxes to spur job creations and the creation of a green investment bank in leads. Meanwhile the opposition Labour Party, criticize the lack of health spending that was announced and accused the government of weakening the economy in the past and having no solid plan for it in the future. Scott Mclean, CNN, London


CHURCH (on camera): U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken says that the Biden administration will turn around the economic crisis and build a more stable inclusive global economy. He gave his first major speech on Wednesday with the special tough words for China calling it the biggest geo political challenge of the century. Blinken vowed to work with allies to advance American interests.


ANTHONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We will use every tool to stop countries from stealing our intellectual property, or manipulating their currency to get an unfair advantage. We will fight corruption, which stacks the deck against us. In our trade policies, we will need to answer very clearly, how they will grow the American middle class, create a new and better jobs, and benefit all Americans, not only those for whom the economy is already working.


CHURCH (on camera): As Blinken reference, China presents a complex set of challenges in the global marketplace. Now the country is having to defend itself against cyberattack allegations from Microsoft. The tech company says a sophisticated group of hackers linked to China has gained illegal access to the Microsoft exchange email service. Here is how China's foreign affairs spokesperson responded.


WANG WENBIN, CHINESE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): China has repeatedly reiterated that the cyberspace is highly virtual and filled with multiple actors whose behaviors are difficult to trace. Tracing cyberattacks is a complex technical issue, and directly relating cyberattacks to government will constitutes a highly sensitive political issue.


CHURCH (on camera): And whatever government links the hackers have, Microsoft says that they were able to invade personal computers and install malware. The company advised users to download software patches.

Well, Japan is set to decide in the next few weeks whether it will allow foreign spectators to attain the summer Olympics that decision is expected by the end of the month, about four months from the start of the games, officials say that the pandemic is a key consideration.


SEIKO HASHIMOTO, TOKYO 2020 PRESIDENT (through translator): In regards to spectators from oversee, we will watch the situation of the coronavirus infection domestically and abroad. U.N. consider the prevention measures and scientific knowledge from experts. It is true that the situation of COVID-19 is tough, both in and outside of Japan, under the situation it is important how we judge and make the final decision.


CHURCH (on camera): And the chairman of the organizing committee also said, the Tokyo games will have the highest ratio of female athletes participating. And still to come, Broadway down under actors out of work in the pandemic are finding a new stage and new audiences in Australia.



CHURCH (on camera): A massive iceberg has broken off an ice shaft in Antarctica, it's so big, it is twice the size of Chicago. Almost 1,300 square kilometers, the image we're seeing now comes from NASA, scientists aren't sure where the iceberg will end up. We also don't yet know if climate change had a role here. And ice landers have been riding a wave of small earthquakes during

the past week, a staggering 17,000 tremors. So far damage has been slight. The quakes are centered around a volcanic region, southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, and could be a sign that an eruption is coming.

It would be the first in that area in 1,000 years. Ice landers located, where North Americans and (inaudible) continental plates are ripping apart, so earthquakes are a part of life. But one expert told CNN she can't recall experiencing so many quakes over such a long period of time.

Well, for the past year, it has been lights out for much of the world theatre 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. We're live theatre is back open for business.

CNN's Will Ripley reports.


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

UNKNOWN: Right now this is really the only place that both of us can be and do what we do.

RIPLEY: What they do takes hours of daily practice, discipline, athleticism, sacrifice.

UNKNOWN: I am away from my family, I am not at home, I don't get to see my husband, we face time every day, but it has been such a challenge.

I'm good how was your day?

RIPLEY: Kelly's husband, a doctor in Los Angeles, they have 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 theatres have reopened.

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

RIPLEY: Broadway star, Gabrielle McClinton just returned to the U.S., she spent months in Australia as the lead player in Pip in, the Tony award winning Broadway musical, was a smash hit in Sydney.

Does that give you hope about Broadway?

GABRIELLE MCCLINTON, ACTOR: Absolutely. I definitely had 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 on stage, we were in our masks and everybody obeyed all the rules, and we did all the due diligence when we were outside of the theatre to make sure that we weren't putting people at risk.

RIPLEY: A model for reopening Broadway and beyond, says Australian play right, Tom Wright.

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

RIPLEY: Sydney's Belvoir Street Theatre has been open for five months. Strict COVID-19 lockdowns work, 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 our society. And we are the reflection of that.

RIPLEY: The pandemic's devastating toll goes beyond empty theatres. Artist around the world are struggling.

UNKNOWN: Artists, I -- have lost three people this year to suicide. And that is on top of the people that I know that have actually died from COVID. It is not just a job for us, this is our lives.

UNKNOWN: We want to do this, and we need to keep doing this. So we are just pushing through and hope for better days.

RIPLEY: Giving hope to performers everywhere. Their future remains up in the air. Will Ripley, CNN.


CHURCH (on camera): A Japanese billionaire is inviting eight people to join him on a six-day trip around.