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Germany Approves Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine for 65 and Up; Protestors Return to the Streets Despite Escalating Violence; Beijing to Tighten Grip on Hong Kong as Parliament Opens; New Zealand Experiences Three Earthquakes; Pope Francis to Visit Baghdad Church Attacked in 2010; 118-Year-Old Woman to Become Oldest Olympic Torchbearer; Jared Kushner Missing from Recent Trump Meetings. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired March 5, 2021 - 00:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live around the world. Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause.


Coming up this hour, Italy gets tough over vaccine exports, banning a shipment to Australia, because the drug maker, AstraZeneca, had continually failed to meet production quotas. A desperate measure in a world where demand far outstrips supply of COVID vaccines.

Myanmar's new military government hit with economic sanctions after weeks of escalating violence by security forces which has left dozens of pro-democracy protesters dead.

And facing unprecedented challenges of a pandemic, a cratering global economy climate change and a whole lot more. China's annual get- together of the rubber-stamp Congress decides the No. 1 priority is to bring Hong Kong's democracy movement to heel.

Well, for weeks, all the signs were there. the number of hospital admissions, the daily case count, the number of deaths every day were starting to fall, dramatically declining. But then, over the last couple of weeks, deaths stalled, and now those numbers are once again slowly ticking up because of the slow vaccine rollout and a new variant, which is more deadly and more contagious.

It's happening mainly in central and eastern Europe. The countries you see here in orange and red. Infections there up more than 10 to more than 50 percent in the past week, compared with the previous week.


HANS KLUGE, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: You're seeing a resurgence in central and eastern Europe. New cases are also on the rise in several western European countries where rates were already high. Continued strain on our hospitals and health workers is being met with acts of medical solidarity between European neighbors. Nonetheless, over a year into the pandemic, our health systems should not be in the situation. We need to get back to the basics.


VAUSE: Across 40 European countries, less than 2 percent of the public have been fully vaccinated. Frustration is mounting over the E.U.'s glacial pace of vaccinations. The European medicine as a regulator, expected to rule on the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week. Also reviewing Russia's Sputnik V.

Meanwhile, Germany's vaccination authority has reversed itself by approving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for those 65 years and older. Earlier this year, it advised against that, citing insufficient data.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen explains the change in guidance.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thomas Buchhammer just got his first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Himself a medical doctor, he says he has no sympathy for Germans who shun AstraZeneca's vaccine.

DR. THOMAS BUCHHAMMER, MEDICAL DOCTOR: I think people in Germany are just too spoiled. It just reminds me of a German laying on a playground and complaining about a candy and thinking they deserve another candy, because someone else is better.

PLEITGEN: Germany's vaccination committee initially approved AstraZeneca's vaccine only for people 65 and younger, hurting public trust in the product. Those running this vaccination center in the state of Brandenburg, which administers both the Pfizer BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccine, tell us early on, barely anyone wanted AstraZeneca, but that is now changing.

"People were reluctant to make appointments," he says. "Not many people wanted to get vaccinated with AstraZeneca."

And the spokesman for the physicians' association says, "My impression of what the numbers tell us is that the acceptance of the AstraZeneca vaccine is rising. We can see that with the bookings."

Germany's numbers are damning. According to CNN's calculations, only a little over a quarter of the AstraZeneca doses delivered to Germany so far have actually been used.

Germany's vaccine committee has only now approved AstraZeneca for all age groups, a move the German chancellor anticipating, as she was announcing an extension of the country's pandemic lockdown measures.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It will probably be the case that the expert panel on vaccine use -- and we will happily follow here -- will approve AstraZeneca for older age groups.

[00:05:09] PLEITGEN: All this in a country suffering from a severe lack of available vaccines. Sibylle Katzenstein, a general practitioner in Berlin, says she has been lobbying authorities to allow her to administer a vaccine to some of her patients with severe pre-existing conditions.

DR. SIBYLLE KATZENSTEIN, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: It would have been nice if I had at least 10 vaccines in my fridge. It would've indeed cost me a lot of time and frustration, and in the end, these people who needed it didn't get vaccinated. So why don't they distribute AstraZeneca to doctors and we vaccinate?

PLEITGEN: The German government now says it will allow GPs to administer vaccines, but only starting in late March. As the German public grows increasingly angry at what many view as a severely botched vaccine rollout.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


VAUSE: So while Germany sat on unused Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, the Italian government tightened control over their supply by blocking the export of a quarter of a million doses to Australia on Thursday.

Italy basically said that, Look, we have a vaccine shortage. AstraZeneca failed to deliver what it promised, and Australia doesn't need the vaccines as much as we do. So we'll just hang onto these for a while.

No position from the E.U. No comment from AstraZeneca. Australia did request a European Commission review of the decision.

Dominic Thomas is CNN's European affairs commentator, and he is with us this hour from L.A.

Dominic, thank you. Good to see you.

Just a little bit more on how the Italian government justified blocking the Australian shipment. They said, basically, the pandemic in Australia is pretty much under control, unlike it is in Italy/ AstraZeneca continues to come up short on promised delivery quotas.

And this last bit is kind of interesting. It says initial export approval was for modest quantities of samples intended for scientific research. And 250,000 doses is not considered modest.

Overall, though, in the grand scheme of things, 250,000 doses is a drop in the vaccine bucket, if you like. The bigger issue here is that, essentially, that the genie is now out of the bottle. The E.U. has passed a law which allows member states to do exactly what Italy is doing, and they're just doing it first. And there are concerns about with the consequences could ultimately be.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, and the consequences, we know that they are essentially leading the way and that other countries will join in the fray.

As we know, the European Union has invested millions of euros in research and development with the expectation that companies like AstraZeneca would deliver the vaccine.

And the fact is, they have fallen dramatically short of that. And the European Union has retaliated by implementing the transparency and authorization mechanism, which allows Italy to do exactly what it is doing. Which is for any E.U. country in which the vaccine is produced to block the exports.

But in fact, this has really nothing to do with Australia here. What we see is European countries increasingly desperate, as they scramble to try and obtain the vaccine, engaging in a broad range of nationalistic and protectionism measures to appeal to an increasingly frustrated electorate. And we can expect more of this to come in the days and weeks that will follow.

VAUSE: Surprisingly, the Australian government has reacted in a cool, mature, and measured way to all of this. A statement from the federal health minister put in context, saying this is one shipment from one country.

There's also the fact that, you know, almost half a million doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have already arrived in country. By the end of the month, domestic production of AstraZeneca will have hit about a million doses each week.

And then there's this reporting from CNN that before Italy put a freeze on the exports to Australia, over 170 requests have been authorized to countries outside the E.U. It begs the question, why now? And suggests this has a lot more to do with AstraZeneca and their short -- production shortfalls than it does with Australia.

THOMAS: Yes. I mean, Australia -- the European Union has some -- you know, the measures that have to do with low income and middle income countries to which these export blocks do not apply.

But in this particular case, no offense, it may feel hurtful, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Australia. This has to do with the broader European Union picture and with domestic leaders increasingly answerable to a very frustrated population and electorate, who for a year now have been dealing with the health measures and lockdown and so on, and are not getting access to the particular vaccine.

So you can see these governments responding in this particular way to try and cover up for their ineptitude, essentially, in anticipating these particular issues and being prepared for vaccine acquisition and distribution once the time had come. And they're being left behind here.

VAUSE: Meantime, back in Europe, the pandemic is now spreading and increasing with the number of cases and the number of new infections.



HANS KLUGE, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Last week, new cases of COVID-19 in Europe rose 9 percent to just above 1 million. This brought a promising six-week decline in new cases to an end, with more than half of our region seeing increasing numbers of new infections.


VAUSE: The E.U. has authorized just three vaccines, right? Johnson & Johnson is not one of them. And in the midst of a global crisis, Johnson & Johnson is the only one which is effective against the variants which are taking hold across Europe.

Why is there a bureaucratic fetish for paperwork in the E.U.? The U.S. approved Johnson & Johnson last week. Humans in this country are like humans in Europe. They look the same. They act the same. They breathe. You know, it's all the same. Couldn't there be the two-track authorization process here to speed this law?

THOMAS: There absolutely should be. And this is incredibly bad public relations for the European Union that is already under constant attack, for its bureaucratic processes. And we saw how this played out in the Brexit arguments and so on.

But the fact is that their joint vaccine procurement program is not working, that the administrative structures at the moment when you need a greatest flexibility possible, are hindering the acquisition and distribution of this particular vaccine.

And they're being overtaken by other countries, which means that only a handful of Europeans have been vaccinated thus far. There are new strains. And countries are facing these economic problems, with France extending the 6 p.m. curfew, Germany continuing on with lockdown measures. New strains development and confidence eroding, not just in the E.U. structures but in governments themselves.

And this has been a -- in terms of the optics, this is very bad for the European Union. And you can see why, therefore, they have this frustrating response to AstraZeneca and other companies that are clearly selling this vaccine elsewhere around the world.

VAUSE: Dominic, thank you. Dominic Thomas there with some good analysis of the situation in Europe. Thank you, Dom.

THOMAS: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Well, pro-democracy demonstrators in Myanmar are not backing down, despite escalating violence. They're continuing to face off with police days after dozens were killed by security forces.

The United Nations says at least five children have been killed in these ongoing protests.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul with the very latest. And what we seem to be looking at now with these protests, is sort of

obviously the -- not quite the joyous day out sort of that they were in the early days of these protests. Now mainly young people out there, not as many as before. And it's obviously a lot more violent and getting worse.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And the fact that there are still a sizeable amount of people going out shows just how passionate they are about what they are protesting against, considering they understand the risks now.

There's just been a statement from human rights group Amnesty International, saying, quote, "Everything points to troops adopting shoot-to-kill tactics to suppress the protests." Also pointing out that the -- the very silence of the military leadership suggests that the orders have come from them. But still, we are seeing people coming out onto the streets knowing the risks.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Protesters bang pots and pans on the streets of Mianchan (ph) in central Myanmar, unaware it's about to turn deadly. They duck and run for cover as security forces start firing.

Twenty-two-year-old Zin Kuo Kuzhou (ph) is shot in the head. His brother carries him to a waiting ambulance, but it's too late.

Reliving that moment, he tells me, "My brother was shot and fell down. Blood was coming from his mouth and his head. I dragged him away from there, and he died in my arms."

His parents say he was the breadwinner of the family, working at the local market. They were all at the protest together, his mother says, but were separated when the shooting began.

She says, "We are risking our lives to claim victory. We don't have any weapons, but they are fully armed. All we can do this protest. They're shooting us with live bullets. Please help us!"

Makeshift hospitals were set up for the injured, treating a steady flow of protesters with gunshot wounds.

TOM ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR: Now we're seeing orders that police and military soldiers shoot people down in cold-blood. They're using -- they're using 12-gauge shotguns. They're using 38 millimeter rifles. They're using semiautomatic weapons.

HANCOCKS: Security forces were caught on camera, taking three charity workers from their ambulance in Yangon and beating them with guns and batons.

The charity says the three are now in hospital with non-life- threatening injuries.

(on camera): Is anybody safe at this point? ANDREWS: No. No one is safe. I mean, here, ambulance workers, people

that are their purely to save lives, to help anyone who is -- who needs emergency medical care. They're not there to hurt anyone. They're there to help everyone.



HANCOCKS: The level of force being used by security forces has increased since Sunday. Dozens have now been killed across the country.

Activists on the ground say the actual death toll is far higher than that the United Nations has been able to confirm.

Makeshift shrines are emerging on the streets where protesters fell. Funerals are becoming a daily occurrence.

As Zin Kuo Kuzhou's (ph) family prepares for his funeral, they say they hope his death has not been in vain. His parents pray the next to fall will be the military dictatorship that took their son.


HANCOCKS: And as many of the protesters on the streets are young at the moment, we are seeing the majority of the fatalities and injuries are young people, as well, John.

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks there, live for us in Seoul, Paula, thank you.

The Chinese premier has opened this year's session of Beijing's rubber-stamp parliament. It touched on a number of issues including economic growth, but the main focus of the National People's Congress, seems to be tightening Beijing's grip over Hong Kong.

Kristie Lu Stout is live in Hong Kong. And what is interesting of the myriad problems which the world is facing right now includes China from the pandemic, to climate change, to an economy. Hong Kong and revising the city's constitution, essentially, is up there with all that. It seems very odd.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And again, the political fate of Hong Kong has been fundamentally altered in Beijing. It was just announced at the National People's Congress. Today is the opening day in Beijing, that the usually pro-Beijing election body that picks the chief executive, or the top leader of Hong Kong, will be picking members of the legislature, the legislative council. That's the parliament in Hong Kong.

This is significant. This effectively cements Beijing's ambition to have Hong Kong run by patriots, by people who love Hong Kong, who love China, and love the Chinese Communist Party.

Earlier today, we heard from Li Keqiang, China's premier. He read the work report for 2021, and in it, he talked about the need to secure the stability of Hong Kong, as well as neighboring Macau.

It read this. Quote, "We will resolutely guard against and deter external forces' interference in Hong Kong and Macau affairs. We will support both regions as they grow their economies, improve people's lives, so as to maintain long-term prosperity and stability."

And that has been the theme of the National People's Congress so far about prosperity, stability, economic growth. We heard from Li Keqiang earlier today the economic growth target that was released for 2021. China hopes to achieve above 6 percent GDP growth this year. Last year, it did not release a GDP target, citing disruptions due to the pandemic.

We also learned that China plans to add 11 million new urban jobs this year. Military spending will increase. In fact, the defense budget will increase some 6.8 percent in 2021.

We also got new details about the five-year plan. That's that full plan to boost domestic spending, reduce high-tech alliance -- or reliance on overseas. There will be an increase in spending on R and D. Seven percent year over year, the next five years -- John.

VAUSE: It's interesting how Beijing wants patriots to run Hong Kong, and those who love Hong Kong. I mean, you could argue that maybe the 47 defendants in that national security trial, which has been ongoing, are patriots. And they love Hong Kong just as much. And their trial is coming to an end. What are the details there?

STOUT: Yes. Well, the bail hearing finally reached an end. It's been an excruciating process. Forty-seven charged with the very serious crime of subversion under the national security law.

This hearing started on Monday, spilled over into Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. A number of defendants had to be hospitalized because of exhaustion.

The chief magistrate ruled that, initially, 15 could be released out on bail, but in the end, all 47 remanded into custody, including Claudia Mo, the former pro-democracy opposition lawmaker.

I mentioned her because last year at the National People's Congress, when the NPC made that announcement of the national security legislation being passed, weeks before it became law and imposed on Hong Kong. When that happened, she said that this was the beginning of a, quote, "sad and traumatizing era for Hong Kong." She said, "They've taken away our souls."

Claudia Mo is now one of the 47 activists who are in custody, charged with the serious crime of subversion, punishable with up to life in prison -- John.

VAUSE: Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout there, live in Hong Kong.

Well, they don't call New Zealand the shaky isles for nothing. When we come back, three powerful earthquakes, one tsunami warning. We'll head to our meteorologist for all the details. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


VAUSE: New Zealand has now downgraded its tsunami warning after three powerful earthquakes early Friday.




VAUSE: That's the tsunami sirens, ringing out. Emergency alerts on phones urged evacuation, but since then, residents have now been reassured they can safely return home.

The strongest quake was a massive magnitude 8.1.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam. There you are. Good to see you. He joins us now. What are the details on this?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Getting rocked by one major earthquake isn't enough. Getting rocked by three major earthquakes in under eight hours, well, that something I've never seen in my entire career.

The first and the second earthquakes completely unrelated, but the second and the third, the two strongest of the three, actually were caused by each other. So one was actually a foreshock of the major 8.1 that struck just northeast of New Zealand.

This is right along a fault line that's just east of New Zealand. This is where the Pacific and the Australian plates collide. The Pacific plate moves about 16 millimeters per year. That's roughly twice as fast as the growth rate of our fingernails. So you can see the slow movement here, but that's enough to allow for some thrust to actually occur underneath those continental plates.

That forces some sort of displacement in the water, because the earthquake occurred underneath the ocean floor. That, of course, created a resulting tsunami, and that tsunami propagated across this Pacific Ocean.

Now, the good news is we're starting to diminish the threat of a tsunami wave across the South Pacific. But now we need to start focusing our attention across the Americas, specifically from Mexico to the east coast of south America. You can see where that tsunami threat still exists.

The projected forecast wave heights, remember, wave heights above normal tidal heights, anywhere from a third of a meter, up to a meter. Still in these overnight periods. So we're going to be monitoring this

quite closely.

You can see the clusters, surrounded by these particular earthquakes, and these are still aftershocks. The potential, at least, for a 7.1 magnitude or larger, still exists with this large of an earthquake that struck, just offshore of New Zealand -- John. Very busy.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. Derek, thank you. Good to see you.

Well, Pope Francis will touch down in Baghdad in a few hours for the first ever papal visit to Iraq. Although Francis will tour the country, even as it continues to struggle with terrorism. On the list is Mosul, a city destroyed by ISIS back in 2014.

Pope Francis says he especially wants to pray for healing.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADER (through translator): Dear brothers and sisters in Iraq, peace be upon you. In a few days, I shall finally be among you. I long to meet you, to see your faces, to visit your land, ancient, an extraordinary cradle of civilization. I come as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore for forgiveness and reconciliation from the Lord after years of war and terrorism.



VAUSE: Many felt this trip would be canceled, but the Holy Father says that he wants to meet with those who have suffered so much. Among them, victims of a church massacre in Baghdad in 2010, which left dozens of Christians dead.

CNN's Ben Wedeman met with some of the survivors who have high hopes for the pope's visit.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The image of Pope Francis graces the blast walls protecting Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church. The messages of brotherhood, a facade perhaps to the bitter memory of the worst ever massacre of Christians in Baghdad.

(on camera): Each one of these red squares representing the spot where somebody died in October 2010. A total of 58 people were killed in the attack.

(voice-over): Terrorists from the Islamic State in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, burst into the church during evening mass. Deacon Luis Klimos (ph) was inside and recalls the attackers made their purpose clear.

"Their intention was evil. It was to kill," he says. "They considered everyone in the church an infidel, deserving of death."

CNN's Arwa Damon reported from the church in the immediate aftermath.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When the attackers stormed in, half of the congregation came back here into this room, trying to keep themselves safe. They had barricaded the door, but the attackers were throwing grenades in. There's blood on the walls here. People have been leaving candles throughout the evening.

Here, we were told, the residue of when one of the grenades exploded, and all over the ceilings and the walls just splattered, splintered with blood.

WEDEMAN: Deacon Klimos (ph) shows us exactly where he was, cowering on the floor with his son and dozens of others, taking cover during the attack. Shrapnel ripped into his head.

"We stayed here for four hours in terror and fear," he recalls. "We had surrendered to faith and put our hands into the lives of the Virgin Mary."

Grainy amateur video shows the panic and trauma moments after Iraqi anti-terrorism troops stormed the church. The massacre was the final straw for many of Baghdad's Christians.

"Since the attack, almost everyone has left," says Nada Kinoir (ph), a survivor. "Before, mass was held three times in the morning and twice in the evening. Now, there's just one mass a day."

The specter of terror has receded for now. Yet, corruption, political paralysis, chaos, and perceived discrimination have left the Christian community desperate for help.

"We need someone to stand with us," says Deacon Klimos (ph). "Because we live in a jungle, a jungle controlled by political monsters."

A jungle in need of saints.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Baghdad.


VAUSE: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, more on the crisis in Myanmar. We'll hear from the human rights lawyer who defended Aung San Suu Kyi a decade ago when she was under house arrest, again, by the military leaders.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Violence is escalating in Myanmar, as security forces crack down on pro-democracy demonstrators. The United Nations says more than 50 people have been killed, including five children, since these protests began.

The United States has announced new trade restrictions, and the U.N. Security Council will meet later today. To Washington, D.C., now, an international human rights lawyer, Jared

Genser, who represented a long list of high-profile political dissidents, including the now former de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Jared, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. Appreciate it.


VAUSE: OK. Without sounding glib, have we seen this movie before? As more protesters are killed, it sparks outrage, which fuels bigger protests. The military kills even more unarmed civilians. Sooner or later, the generals crossed that line of committing war crimes, if they haven't done so already.

Democratic nations imposed sanctions like the U.S. did on Thursday. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then what?

GENSER: Well, it's a great question. I don't think we've quite seen this version of the movie yet. I think this one's going to be a lot harsher and nastier.

You know, I think that, in the last time we saw mass protests in Burma was almost 15 years ago with the Saffron Revolution. And a lot has happened since then. And the wide availability of mobile phones, video and real-time -- the projection outward of what's happening in the country is dramatically different than it was 15 years ago.

And so we're seeing already, not only a brutal crackdown by the military on protesters, but you know, the body count piling up much more rapidly. And the real question is going to be ultimately whether the military can sustain this, when even countries that you might think would be aligned with them like China, are undoubtedly are, you know, not fully on board with what the military is doing.

China for example, wants to see stability in the country. And undoubtedly much more stability with Aung San Suu Kyi running the country than they have with the military takeover that's taken place.

VAUSE: And as the world watches these images, like we've never really watched them before, there's escalating use of deadly force by the military. It's being condemned. UNICEF, for one, has called out the military for killing, wounding and arresting children.

There is also this statement from the U.S. State Department. Listen to this.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We continue to urge the Burmese military to exercise maximum restraint. This latest escalation in violence demonstrates the fact of the junta's complete disregard for their own people, for the people of Burma. It is unacceptable, and the world will continue to respond.


VAUSE: Just a day ago, we spoke with the U.N. special rapporteur to Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, who called for a global arms embargo on Myanmar. And on paper, it could be quite effective, right, in increasing the violence.

But in practice, it may not be that easy. And that's where China especially comes into play, right?

GENSER: No, it does, and I think that we're seeing the crimes mounting in a way that we're rapidly going to be able to conclude what's going on here are most likely crimes against humanity.

What we're talking about here is mass disappearances, arbitrary detention, extraditional (ph) killings committed in a -- you know, in a widespread, systematic and -- and horrific way directed against the civilian population of the country.

As the numbers mount and the scale mounts, it's much more likely that we can conclude mass atrocities are being committed. You know, I think an arms embargo is an important first part.

Also, we need the situation in the country, referred to the International Criminal Court to hold accountable General Min Aung Hlaing, who runs the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, and other generals of the country, not merely for what they're doing right now, but of course, for the prior acts that they've committed against the Rohingya and the -- the acts of genocide against the Rohingya people that, you know, they were brought to the world court about and were radically and quite sadly, Aung San Suu Kyi had stood in their defense.


VAUSE: The Reuters news agency is reporting that three days after taking power, the new military leaders tried to get their hands on a billion dollars being held in the Federal Reserve in New York. It was stopped by banking safeguards which have been already put in place.

The U.S. government officials then stalled on approving the transfer until an executive order issued by President Joe Biden gave them legal authority to block it indefinitely.

A billion dollars would have been a nice cushion with those economic sanctions coming. But from your experience in dealing with the leader of the coup, General Min Aung Hlaing.

Is all this death, this bloodshed, the political turmoil, essentially being driven by a bigger plan here to basically loot as much of the nation's wealth as possible?

GENSER: You know, I think it's less about looting the wealth, and it's more about the personal ambition of Min Aung Hlaing himself.

You know, I think that the conventional wisdom before this coup was that, because of the concessions that have been made to the military previously by Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, which included such things as, you know, letting them maintain these conglomerates that they own and control, and line their own pockets with cash. Not holding them accountable for mass atrocities that were committed, not just against the Rohingya but over the prior decades. And letting them control their own budget. You know, that this was all going to be enough to not give an incentive to the military to -- you know, to undertake a coup.

And the reality is that last November's elections were a devastating defeat to the military. The party that supported the military, you know, got seven percent of the votes, whereas the -- Aung San Suu Kyi's, her allies won more than 65, 70 percent of the votes as well.

So he saw no pathway forward and -- you know, and felt that, if he didn't do this and he would lose his grip on power, which undoubtedly would have happened, then sadly, I think this is about really him and his own burning ambition, as compared to any, you know, broader side of issues or concerns.

VAUSE: Yes, Jared, thank you so much for being with us. And the insight which you have, it's great. You've obviously had a lot of experience with the country and the coup leaders. So it's good to have you with us. Thank you.

GENSER: Yes. Absolutely, thanks so much.

VAUSE: The U.N. is calling for a war crimes investigation into Ethiopia's military offensive in the Tigray region and says allied troops from neighboring Eritrea are operating in the area, and they should leave.

Both countries deny the presence of the Eritrean troops, despite an overwhelming number of eyewitness accounts. They are there not only there, but they've committed atrocities against the local population.

The violence began in November, when regional Tigray forces attacked federal army bases. In response, Ethiopia launched a military offensive on Tigray forces and their political leadership, as well.

Here's more from the U.N.


RAVINA SHAMDASANI, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE SPOKESWOMAN: A preliminary analysis of the information received, indicates that serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, may have been committed by multiple activists.


VAUSE: There is exclusive CNN reporting on the violence in Ethiopia. You can find it on our website or on

Well, we'll take a short break. When we come back, prepare to meet the world's oldest living person. Her Olympic-sized goal for the months ahead. That's one she seeks to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Konnichiwa, Tanaka-san. How are you feeling? She's asleep. A hundred and 18 years old, you've got to take your naps where you can get him.



VAUSE: The oldest woman on the planet about to accomplish an Olympic- sized to-do item on her bucket list, being a torch bearer for the Tokyo Olympics.

CNN's Blake Essig spoke to her and her family.


ESSIG: Konnichiwa, Tanaka-san. How are you feeling?

(voice-over): Meet 118-year-old Connie Tanaka.

(on camera): She's asleep. At 118 years old you've got to take your naps where you can get them.

(voice-over): Sure, she might have been a bit tired while talking with me, but that's probably because she's conserving energy. After all, in just a couple of months, this super centenarian will become the oldest person ever to carry the Olympic flame as a torchbearer.

EIJI TANAKA, GRANDSON: We thought it was a great thing. It's great that people of all generations can take part in the torch relay.

ESSIG: Tanaka is almost as old as the modern Olympics itself, first held in Athens in Greece 1896, just 7 years before she was born.

She was 61 years old when Tokyo held its first Olympics in 1964 and has already lived through 49 summer and winter games. But this is the first where she'll participate.

TANAKA: We think she'll be in her wheelchair for the designated relay distance, whether that's 100 meters or so.

ESSIG: Born in 1903, Tanaka has lived nearly her entire life in what's now known as Fukuoka. Married at 19, she and her husband have five kids. She survived cancer twice, endured two pandemics, ran a rice cake shop until she was 103 years old, is currently listed by Guinness World Records as the oldest living person on the planet, and she has her very own Twitter account.

Despite her advanced age, family says the 118-year-old has the heart and mind of a woman at least half or age. The avid board game aficionados still practices math and studies the writing form kanji. Focused on activities that keep her mind sharp. She tells people it's her secret to longevity. For more than a year, as a result of the pandemic --


GRAPHIC: Can you see the camera?


GRAPHIC: Yes, I can see.

ESSIG: -- this is as close as Tanaka's family is able to get to her. But they say COVID-19 concerns won't stop Tanaka from participating as a torchbearer. Instead, her family says her involvement depends on how she's feeling on the day of the relay. And if all goes to plan, she might even have a little something special planned.

E. TANAKA: If she can walk through the last few minutes, because she can still walk, it would be great. She can walk over and hand the torch to the next relay runner, and we could be by her side as she does that.

ESSIG: An historic opportunity in an already extraordinary life, one which proves monumental memories can be made at any age.

Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.


VAUSE: A hundred and eighteen, not bad.

Well, I'm John Vause. Please stay with this. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM.

In the meantime, we'll take a short break, and then WORLD SPORT is up. Thanks for watching.