Return to Transcripts main page


Pope Meets Top Shiite Muslim Cleric, Will Visit Christian Town Devastated By ISIS; House To Vote On Revised COVID Bill Tuesday; California Amusement Parks To Reopen April 1; Comparing Top Coronavirus Vaccines; Some Mexican Towns Refusing Vaccines; Protesters In Thailand, Myanmar And Hong Kong Want More Freedom; Monarchy Braces For Interview With Harry And Meghan; Thousands Of Earthquakes Rock Iceland. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 7, 2021 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, appreciate your company. Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill as amended is passed.

HOLMES (voice-over): One step closer to COVID relief, a major win for Joe Biden politically.

Where does the bill go from here?


HOLMES (voice-over): Pope Francis to land in northern Iraq this hour, details on the last leg of his historic trip.

And a royal rift deepens ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's bombshell interview. Why the Duchess of Sussex is speaking out after leaving royal life in the rearview mirror.


HOLMES: And we begin with the pope's historic trip to Iraq, crisscrossing the country Sunday on his last full day of events. Pope Francis expected in the city of Irbil for a brief welcoming ceremony before heading to Mosul, where he will lead a prayer for victims of war.

Saturday, the pontiff met with Iraq's top Shiite cleric, the grand ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani. It was most of the most significant summits between a pope and a leading Shiite Muslim cleric in recent years. The pope has been speaking out against sectarian violence, calling himself a pilgrim of peace.

CNN Vatican Delia Gallagher is traveling with the pope. She has the highlights of his visit so far. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Pope Francis' second day in Iraq began with an historic private visit in Najaf to the home of the grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the 90-year-old cleric who is rarely seen in public but who wields great influence among Shiite Muslims.

The Vatican says the pope thanked the ayatollah and the Shia Muslim community for his support of those persecuted in Iraq and for his calls for unity amongst the Iraqi people.

Al-Sistani's office says the ayatollah told Francis that Christians should live like all Iraqis in security and peace and with their full constitutional rights.

The pope then headed down to Ur, the historical site which is said to be the birthplace of Abraham, who's considered the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He met there with leaders of other religious in Iraq and told them all religious leaders should look to Abraham and follow in his footsteps, looking to heaven as they journey on Earth.

The pope also said a special prayer for the Yazidi community, the persecuted ethnic minority in northern Iraq. The pope finished out his day at the Chaldean Catholic cathedral here in Baghdad.

On Sunday, the pope travels to Irbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh -- Delia Gallagher, CNN, Baghdad.


HOLMES: And let's go to CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman who is in Irbil as we wait for Pope Francis to arrive.

Ben, the pontiff visiting so many places of great significance for the Christian community or what's left of it in Iraq. And you have been visiting a place that really does represent the damage done, particularly by ISIS.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in fact, I was here in 2014, when ISIS was sort of rampaging across the plains of northern Iraq. They got about 60 kilometers away from where we are in Irbil.

But really it was the psychological damage that they wreaked on the Christian community and the Yazidis, of course, during that summer of 2014. And the pope will be going to the town of Qaraqosh, where ISIS basically wreaked not just physical damage.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): ISIS was here -- and here -- and here.

Their reign of madness in the mostly Christian town of Qaraqosh ended more than four years ago. Services have resumed at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Rituals conducted for centuries once again part of the rhythm of daily life.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Almost all of the town's inhabitants fled before the onslaught of ISIS, the joy of return clouded by the shock of what was left of their homes.

"You can't imagine," she says, "it was empty, destroyed. They left nothing."

In April 2017 shortly after liberation, we attended the first mass in the scorched and vandalized cathedral.

WEDEMAN: This church has been repaired since then but still damages the confidence of this ancient community that it will be able to live and prosper in this land.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Pope Francis is scheduled to hold prayers here. Father Ammar Yako will show the pope some of the damage ISIS left behind. He worries decades of trauma have left a deep, still raw wound.

"Iraq is in a dark tunnel," he says. "There are challenges caused by wars, by the terrorism still present in some areas, by economic problems and by the corruption so widespread in Iraq."

Yohana Saqr's two daughters gave up and left, one to Sweden, the other to Australia. The visit of Pope Francis, he hopes, will spark a change of hearts and minds.

"Maybe there will be love and peace," Yohana tells me, "maybe it will soften and melt frozen hearts."

The sun shines once upon Qaraqosh as townspeople busy themselves, preparing for the pope, hoping darkness will not descend upon them yet again.


WEDEMAN: And, of course, things have changed dramatically since back in 2014. What we saw was Qaraqosh has come back as a town and also Mosul as well, which was very badly damaged during the final phases of the war against ISIS.

And what is significant, Michael, is that, also back in 2014, the then caliph of the so-called Islamic State Abu Baker al-Baghdadi called upon his followers to conquer Rome and now we have the pope in Mosul.


HOLMES: Yes, that's some good analogy there.

Broadly speaking, the damage done to the Christian community, not just by ISIS but post U.S. invasion, in fact, and the rise of groups like ISIS, there has been massive damage.

Do you get any sense the community might somehow if not recover at least grow once again?

WEDEMAN: Certainly, you get the sense the situation, compared to what it was just a few years ago, has stabilized. Many Christians we spoke to told us that they have relatives in Sweden, in Australia, the United States and wherever.

And the center of gravity of Iraq's Christian community has moved abroad. Their relatives abroad are sending them videos and pictures of their new lives. And their new lives, compared to what people are living here, given the poor state of the economy and the uncertainty of chaotic Iraqi politics, the problems of corruption, those lives abroad look a bit better.

One priest here in Irbil told us he thinks that, yes, Christians will continue to exist in this land but certainly not in the way they did, say before the fall of Saddam in 2003.

HOLMES: Great to have you there, Ben, and your local knowledge, appreciate it.

Now many Americans are breathing a huge sigh of relief. On Saturday, the U.S. Senate passed President Joe Biden's monumental first piece of legislation. His nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus relief bill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 50, the nays are 49, the bill as amended is passed.


HOLMES: It is a major accomplishment for the president even though he failed to get what he wanted, which was bipartisan support. No Republicans voted for the bill either in the House of Representatives nor the Senate. It does now head back to Congress for a final signoff before it hits the president's desk for his signature.


HOLMES: CNN's Jessica Dean and Arlette Saenz have details. For us


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Senate passing this massive COVID-19 relief bill right along party lines 50 to 49. But it passes a major hurdle, goes over to the House, where they plan to vote on the changes and then it goes to President Biden's desk, pledging that families will begin to relieve those stimulus payments as soon as this month.

And this is a massive bill. In addition to those $1,400 payments it also has money in it for reopening schools, unemployment benefits, for state and local governments as well as vaccines and vaccine distribution, child tax credits.

It is a big bill that touches so many pieces of the American economy. Here's majority leader Chuck Schumer on that partisan vote.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Now that we're in the majority, they don't seem to want to work with us. But we will get it done. Anyway, we prefer them to work with us, we want them to work with us. Maybe they'll change their minds after this.

But we're going to get it done regardless because America needs it and that's what we did. So we didn't stop, we didn't let anything get in our way.


DEAN: And again, Democrats staying unified to get this bill passed. At one point, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, senator Joe Manchin, looked like they might lose him to a Republican amendment on unemployment benefits. It stalled out on the floor for nearly 12 hours as they worked that out.

Then senators were here overnight into Saturday morning before they ultimately passed this bill. Now it's back to the House on Tuesday then over to President Biden -- Jessica Dean, CNN, Capitol Hill.



ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Biden assured Americans that help is on the way after the Senate passed that $1.9 trillion COVID relief. Package. The president speaking at the White House detailed exactly what is in that measure, everything from the $1,400 stimulus check to enhanced unemployment benefits.

White House officials have said the president and vice president plan on spending some time selling this package to the American people so they know exactly what they will be receiving.

During the campaign and leading into the White House, President Biden insisted that he would try to get bipartisan support for this measure. But not one Republican decided to vote for it on Saturday. Our colleague, Joe Johns, asked the president about that at the White House. Take a listen.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Why don't you think you could get a single Republican vote?

And what does the drama of the last 24, including with Senator Manchin, tell you about the next four years?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be good. I'm going to succeed. We are going to succeed moving forward. Look, the American people strongly support what we're doing here. That's the key.

And it that's going to continue, deep down, into the public, including from our Republican friends. There was a lot of Republicans that came very close and there were lot of freshmen on it (ph). I still haven't given up on getting their support.


SAENZ: Since there were-changes to the bill in the Senate, it now moves back to the House and the White House is hoping the president will be able to sign the bill before unemployment benefits run out on March 14th.

But bottom line here, President Biden is now one step closer to providing that direct relief he promised to Americans and netting his first major legislative accomplishment as president-- Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: There are now 3 coronavirus vaccines available in the U.S. and a fourth might be on the way if they're all fighting the same virus and maybe that different. But then there are those who don't want the vaccine, no matter what. Why some in Mexico think that shots may do more harm than good. We explain, after the break.





HOLMES: It now looks like the U.S. could reach so-called herd immunity by late summer, thanks to coronavirus vaccines. That estimation, from a CNN analysis. Vaccinations here, picking, up now standing at about 2 million shots per day. The CDC says that almost 88 million doses have been administered so far, of course, some of those, needing to be administered twice.

CNN's Paul Vercammen, showing us what it is like at one vaccination site in California.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here at Six Flags Magic Mountain, shots going into arms, COVID-19 shots. And at this windy park, we may soon see seats going back into the rise here because California has cleared the way for theme parks to open up on April 1st, as well as sports stadiums and outdoor concert venues if the county is in the second most strict tier, the red tier, and all odds are these counties will be out of that tier or into that red tier, because the numbers have been plummeting in California.

If you look from above, can a theme park coexist with a vaccination site?

Officials seem to think they can work together after all. If they open up in the red tier, the theme parks can only have 15 percent capacity. Here, at Magic Mountain, we saw a lot of teachers give themselves a vaccine shot today and they were, understandably, optimistic.

VERCAMMEN: It feels like there is a bit of optimism here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I would say so. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still think people need to be really safe and I think it's a little bit soon, I am worried about that. But I don't know, if it's OK with the CDC, I am all right with it.

VERCAMMEN: As for professional sports, the stadiums could open at a 20 percent capacity of attendance if they are in the red tier. Then, those tiers would loosen up over time as the COVID-19 infections go down. As for the massive outdoor concert business in California, Hollywood Bowl, among others, celebrating these moves. They are waiting to see if they can, indeed, open. So the outdoor concerts open but indoors, no -- reporting from Valencia, California, Paul Vercammen, back to you.


HOLMES: The U.S. President, Joe Biden, expecting to have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May. Now that the Johnson & Johnson shot is available but many are wondering how does it compare to the vaccines made by the other companies?

CNN's Randi Kaye breaks it down for us.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With all the questions about the J&J vaccine, how stacks up against the other vaccines, the bottom line is this: all three of the approved vaccines on the market right now in the U.S. should prevent the virus from killing you.

Pfizer's vaccine, which requires two shots, is 95 percent effective against the virus. Moderna, which also requires two shots, is 94 percent effective. J&J's vaccine, just one shot was 66 percent effective in a global trial but proved to be 85 percent effective against severe disease.

And like the other two, 100 percent effective against death, meaning nobody who got these vaccines died from COVID.

KAYE: Why isn't AstraZeneca approved for use in the United States?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: My understanding was the FDA has asked AstraZeneca to do additional phase III trials.

KAYE (voice-over): Dr. Peter Hotez, who studies vaccines, said there was some confusion about AstraZeneca's results, including one partial study showing a smaller first dose of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine bumped the efficacy from 62 percent to 90 percent.


HOTEZ: It's 62 percent using the standard doses and 90 percent with a low dose followed by a standard dose. So that was one of the concerns, that the 90 percent number was a low number of people enrolled. I think they wanted the result of a phase III trial conducted in the United States.

KAYE (voice-over): And if you're wondering how each of these vaccines stack up against the different variants now proliferating, Dr. Hotez says these four vaccines work really well against the original strain and the U.K. variant.

The South African variant is more challenging. He says he thinks Moderna will partially protect against that strain and that Pfizer works well against it, though it produces fewer virus neutralizing antibodies. So the level of protection is still unclear.

And Johnson & Johnson's vaccine?

HOTEZ: It was actually tested in South Africa and there is a reduction in this level of protective efficacy. But there is still some. In a single dose, around 57 percent protective immunity, so reduction and partial protection.

KAYE (voice-over): AstraZeneca, he says, was only about 10 percent effective against the South African variant. The good news is vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Pfizer not only protect you but also seem to help stop the spread of the virus.

KAYE: So the three of them?


KAYE: And not Moderna.

HOTEZ: I think likely Moderna does as well it's just we just haven't shown it. Yet

KAYE (voice-over): Data from Israel shows 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are 92 percent effective at preventing infections, including in people who don't show symptoms.

HOTEZ: Potentially if we get enough people vaccinated, we can halt virus transmission, I think we can vaccinate our way out of this epidemic.

KAYE: What's your advice to people when it comes to getting vaccinated?

HOTEZ: You're not going to have a lot of choice in terms of what you get. Get what you can. All of these vaccines will save your life.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


HOLMES: Now there's another encouraging sign out of the U.S. More people now say they are willing to get vaccinated. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new poll and it shows that 55 percent of adults now say they are willing to get a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible or have already received their first dose. That number used to be 47 percent in January and was 34 percent in December.

Another poll showing a similar trend, this one says 57 percent of Americans say they have already received the vaccine or will get it as soon as possible, compared to 30 percent in September.

Now in Mexico, the vaccine rollout is underway but not everyone is ready or willing to get the shot. Some people believe there that vaccines can do more harm than good. And that's a problem. CNN's Rafael Romo explains.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): In this town located in southern Mexico's highlands, life goes on as it always has. Young people mingle downtown, the men shake hands and talk business around the main square and women gather to weave traditional rugs.

There may be a global pandemic going on but in Aldama, population 7,000, seemingly no one wears a mask. The town's mayor is one of several local officials who proudly claim that no one has been infected by the coronavirus.

Health officials are unable to confirm the claim. He credits traditional medicine for the low impact of COVID-19 on the town.

"We asked our grandparents and great grandparents for guidance and that helped us a lot," he says.

But there may be other powerful reasons. It's a small rural and isolated community located in the impoverished state of Chiapas. The fact that very few outsiders ever visit and its residents rarely travel to the big cities may better explain why the town seems to have been spared by the pandemic.

Along with several other indigenous towns in Chiapas' central highlands have recently made headlines in Mexico, because most residents, like this woman, say they will refuse any COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of its origin. The town's secretary told CNN that people here, including himself, strongly believe vaccines can do more harm than good.

"Since we don't really know what vaccines are made of, we believe they contain the COVID-19 virus. That's the main reason why people don't want to get vaccinated," he said.

There are 421 municipalities in Mexico, 17 percent of the total, which because of their indigenous origin, rule themselves much like Native American reservations do in the United States.


ROMO (voice-over): And there seems to be a growing movement in these communities to reject COVID-19 vaccines, just when the country has launched its massive vaccination plan.

There's a lot of misinformation and rumors, Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in mid-February, asking people not to pay attention to what he called "distortions" and trust the vaccines.

ROMO: But the president also made it clear that nobody will be vaccinated against their will. If Aldama reflects the way the people in similar communities feel, this could pose a similar challenge for Mexico's effort inoculating its people -- Rafael Romo, CNN.


HOLMES: Want to update you on our top story, that is the papal visit to Iraq. We have live pictures now. This is Irbil, in northern Iraq, where Pope Francis has arrived on the final day of his historic visit, being welcomed there, at the airport, by local officials.

Of course, this is in Kurdistan and you can see there more traditional headgear worn by Kurds. He will be heading to Mosul, that city, of course, held for many areas by ISIS and he will be leading a prayer for victims of war there before heading out to Qaraqosh, another Iraqi town about 65 kilometers or so from Irbil.

We are going to take a quick break on the program. When we come back, protesters in Myanmar practice using shields to protect themselves from police. The latest on their fight for democracy, coming up.




Welcome back to our viewers, all around the world, I am Michael Holmes, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Pro-democracy protesters are marching in Myanmar, again. They are braving a violent response from police and military forces like we have seen in recent days. And today's protest coming after a night of crackdowns.

Reuters reporting that security forces raided residential areas in Yangon, making several arrests using curfew as a cover to do so. A human rights group in the country says that more than 1,700 people have been detained since the coup last month.

Now we have seen large protest movements elsewhere in Asia as well, like Thailand and Hong Kong. Authorities cracking down on dissent there as well. Protesters taking a hard look at China and its dominance in the region, blaming it for their lack of freedoms. [00:30:00]

HOLMES: Nic Robertson, telling us about the fight for democracy in Asia and, a warning, the report contains some disturbing images.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): From Myanmar, to Thailand, to Hong Kong. Across Asia, democracy is under violent attack. Myanmar citizens, protesting the month-old military coup and getting the worst of it. Derek Mitchell, U.S. ambassador there, until 2016.

DEREK MITCHELL, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE: This is very bad, it is crossing a line, it's not as bad, you can say, as 1988, where there was massive killings in the streets but that's just a matter of slight degree.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): International condemnation has followed.

DOMINIC RAAB, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: We (INAUDIBLE) to this indiscriminate violence.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Instead of listening, Myanmar's military is doubling down on its aggression, so Asia's youth are turning to themselves for help. An Asian pro-democracy movement, naming itself the Milk Tea Alliance, is reaching across borders.

MITCHELL: You see it play out in real time in places like Hong Kong, in places like Thailand and now you see it spread to Myanmar. It is quite remarkable. They're working in solidarity with one another.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Over the past year, it has grown from angry netizens criticizing China's Communist Party, to coalescing around the unified need to challenge autocracies. Its name is a poke at Mainland China, for local style of regional milky teas are symbols of cultural identities that are distinct from their massive neighbor.

NATHAN LAW, ACTIVIST AND FORMER HONG KONG LAWMAKER: It really gives China a lesson to learn that, if they want to isolate Hong Kong people, we can always find a way to garner more support.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Law, the Hong Kong activist, now in exile in the U.K., sees the Milk Tea Alliance as a potentially powerful weapon for Myanmar's unarmed activists, too.

LAW: The military is afraid of the influence that the younger generation brings and the global attention.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In Hong Kong, Myanmar and Thailand, activists all now sharing a 3 finger, "Hunger Games" style, salute. But it is a measure of the alliance's infancy. The same day protests organized in Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand in support for Myanmar's residents missed major coverage because Myanmar's military killings were so brutal they dominated the headlines.

Even so, the Milk Tea Alliance may have a future, one that could be a worry for China's authoritarian leaders.

MITCHELL: I think China does feel that liberal activity, anywhere, can be problematic for them. This is why you see them trying to shape a world that is more illiberal.

LAW: We really need a global response to the decline of democracy and to fight against the rise of authoritarianism. So I guess that is a clue for us for how we approach democracy in the future.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For now, in Myanmar, bullets, not words, rule the day -- Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


HOLMES: The Biden administration, putting together a task force to address cyber threats from China. It comes after Microsoft announced this week it found suspected Chinese hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in its server software. A source tells us that the attack has the potential to affect organizations that are critical to daily life in the U.S.

The White House urging everyone running the servers, whether government or private sector, to update their software now.

The British royal family bracing for another sensational interview in just hours. The world will know what Harry and Meghan told Oprah about life at Buckingham Palace. The potential fallout, ahead.

Also, Princess Diana's former chief of staff is having deja vu. He talks to CNN about the similarities between the current rift in the royal family and the ones that happened in the '90s. We will have the details, next.





HOLMES: Now in the coming hours, the royal family will be on full display. Queen Elizabeth will be delivering this year's Commonwealth address on unity, just hours before Oprah Winfrey's highly anticipated interview with Harry and Meghan airs around the world.

As tensions rise about what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may say, the royal family, as you may expect, are not commenting.

William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, joining the queen and speaking with medical workers across the country. Now all of this, as Prince Philip remains in the hospital, where he is recovering from a heart procedure. Anna Stewart, with more, from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prince Philip still in hospital but we have had some good news this week. On Wednesday, His Royal Highness underwent a procedure for a pre-existing heart condition. The palace have said that it was a success.

He is expecting to stay in hospital for a few more days. Lots of concern for Prince Philip, he's 99 years old, this has been a long stint in hospital. This evening, it is his 19th tonight.

Now let's hope he is not reading newspapers as he recuperates, because royal news has, absolutely, dominated the headlines. Allegations surfaced in "The Times" newspaper this week, suggesting that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, bullied some of her employees while she was in the U.K.

The palace said that they would investigate these allegations. A spokesperson for the couple however have just dismissed the story, said it is a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation. They called the claims defamatory.

We have lots of trailers ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan's sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey. That broadcast, Sunday, will be 2 hours long. We expect to hear some explosive insights into what it was like for them within the royal family and, ultimately, why they decided to step back and leave the U.K.

In one of the clips, Meghan says that the firm, a term referring to the royal family, played an active role in perpetuating falsehoods.

Now when asked about that clip, Buckingham Palace said they had no comment. Perhaps they were waiting to see the full interview to put it into context, as are we all. We don't have long to wait.


HOLMES: Anna Stewart, reporting there.

CVS, by the way, is paying at least $7 million for the interview, that is according to "The Wall Street Journal," which, also, reports that the Duke and Duchess are not being paid to talk to Oprah Winfrey. The TV network is said to be asking roughly $325,000 for 30 seconds of commercial time. That is about twice the normal rate.

The fact that Prince Harry and Meghan are giving such an in-depth interview is unheard of usually but it's all part of the couple's attempt to reinvent themselves after walking away from royal duties. CNN's Paula Newton reports.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Fairy tales are not supposed to go this way, with a prince and his bride quitting the palace and moving to California. But Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess are writing their own story, one that's shocked some and inspired others.

MICHELLE TAUBER, SENIOR ROYALS EDITOR, "PEOPLE": The monarchy failed in terms of there was a golden opportunity to modernize with this couple. And it didn't happen.

NEWTON (voice-over): No longer full-time working members of the British royal family.


NEWTON (voice-over): The couple has been working hard since leaving the U.K. on building their own brand. First called Sussex Royal, it was later changed to Archewell, named for their first child. It includes their charity work and media productions.

Those ventures have, reportedly been very lucrative with multiyear deals to create content for Netflix and a series of podcasts for Spotify.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX (voice-over): These elephants are setting out on 1,000-mile round trip.

NEWTON (voice-over): Meghan also narrating a nature documentary for Disney called "Elephant," and invested in and oat milk latte company while Harry is collaborating with Oprah Winfrey on an upcoming TV series on mental health.

The couple even paid back the $3 million of public money they used to renovate the home they lived in, in the U.K.

In an interview with James Corden, Harry explained that, even though the past year has brought many changes, their goals are still the same.

HENRY, PRINCE OF WALES: My life will always be about public service and Meghan has signed up to that and the two of us enjoy doing that.

NEWTON (voice-over): Both continue to champion causes they are passionate about, speaking out on mental health, race and voting, as they did in this ABC broadcast special.

MARKLE: When we vote, our values are put into action and our voices are heard.

NEWTON (voice-over): But that has always cut both ways. Photos of them laying a wreath on Remembrance Day were seen as a publicity stunt by some. Meghan received high praise for writing an intimate article about the grief she experienced after suffering a miscarriage.

But the announcement that she and Harry were expecting another baby left some critics asking, why the couple who complained about the press was also engaging with them.

PENNY JUNIOR, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: They said they were leaving because they wanted privacy. And, it seems, in the last year, that they have done very little other than seek publicity.

NEWTON (voice-over): The upcoming high-profile interview with Oprah is sure to capture the world's attention. Whether or not it outshadows the causes and projects that the Sussexes have, so far, carefully cultivated is a chapter yet to be written -- Paula Newton, CNN.


HOLMES: Now there are some parallels between the current rift between the royal family and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the one that occurred with Princess Diana. Earlier, CNN spoke to Princess Diana's private secretary and chief of staff. And we asked Patrick Jephson about the similarities.


PATRICK JEPHSON, PRINCESS DIANA'S PRIVATE SECRETARY AND CHIEF OF STAFF: It reminds me that 30 years ago, we were at a comparable situation where rifts were opening up within the royal family and it was starting to escalate and there were a lot of unhappy people involved then. I'm quite sure there are a lot of unhappy people involved now.

And first and foremost, we should remember this is a family rift. It has taken on a lot of the trappings of a big media PR story, but at the heart of this are real people really hurting and I hope that somewhere in the midst of the current back and forth, somebody is putting down the seeds for eventual reconciliation which has to come.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Well, that would seem to fall to the father, wouldn't it?

JEPHSON: Well, certainly I think the responsibility for starting to heal a lot of this damage and to put a stop to the escalation does lie with senior palace management and Harry and William's father involved with the Diana situation has also a lot of experience and I suppose examples from his own history of how these things can be made worse and how they can be made better.

And I hope that there will be intervention from all well-intentioned people to help Harry and Meghan settle in their new lives and help heal the wounds that arose through the way they departed.

SMERCONISH: Patrick, does the palace play political hardball?

The timing of that "Times" story, investigation pertaining to the allegation of bullying hardly seems coincidental.

JEPHSON: Well, I suppose if you start to employ PR experts, they will do what their job is and this is the way in which, combined with social media, what is essentially a family squabble turns into something potentially much more damaging and it is a matter of judgment how both sides use the media.

It is also, I think, important to consider that, again, in the long term, this is a monarchy we're talking about.


JEPHSON: And there will need to be lessons learned, I hope some sort of investigation, to establish how many factors went into creating this problem in the first place so that it can be avoided in future.


HOLMES: The hype around this upcoming interview also reminiscent of another time when scandalous secrets were revealed. In 1995, Princess Diana opened up to a BBC journalist about life at Buckingham Palace. That interview shook the royal family and led to a BBC internal investigation. CNN's Max Foster with more.


MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the interview that rocked the monarchy, causing a worldwide sensation.

Are you saying Ms. Parker Bowles was a factor in the breakdown of your marriage?

DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: Well, there were three of us in this marriage. So it was a bit crowded.

FOSTER (voice-over): Confirmation that Prince Charles' extramarital relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles and an admission of her own infidelity. Diana also went on to question Charles' suitability and desire to be king.

Why, exactly, did Diana do the interview?

How was she convinced to lift the lid on what was really going on behind palace walls?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why have you decided to give this interview now?

Why have you decided to speak at this time?

FOSTER (voice-over): The recurring allegation is that BBC journalist Martin Bashir knew exactly why, that he had used forged documents that suggested that palace staff were working against her and being paid to spy on her.

A graphic designer, then working for the BBC, Matt Weaseler (ph) admits he mocked up the statements but on Bashir's instructions and without knowing how the forgeries would be used.

Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, claims that Bashir used the false bank statements to trick him into getting an introduction to Diana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So his point is that the whole premise of the interview was set up on false and dodgy ground.

FOSTER (voice-over): Then there was the question of the BBC's conduct. An internal BBC inquiry in 1996 concluded that Diana had not been misled, while documents were forged, the inquiry found they played no role in Diana's decision-making. But Charles Spencer has continued to build his case against those

findings. In 25 years, Bashir has not defended himself publicly. He has not responded to our request for comment, either.

But in another statement, the BBC said that Bashir is signed off work by his doctors, recovering from heart surgery and complications from COVID-19. And whilst the Metropolitan Police have decided no criminal charges will be brought against Bashir, an independent investigation launched by the BBC's new director general, Tim Davey, and led by a retired judge, is ongoing.

A reinvestigation that has been publicly welcomed by Diana's son, Prince William.

FOSTER: For 25 years, there've been calls from within the palace but also within the BBC for a full independent investigation into exactly how Martin Bashir secured the biggest media interview in modern British history.

Where was the oversight?

Was it unethical for the BBC to investigate itself?

Was there a cover-up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a human level, there's a perfectly valid interest on the extent to which the methods used to get the interview might have added to the princess' concerns that she was being followed or, perhaps, being monitored or being listened to, which would've increased her anxieties.

FOSTER (voice-over): If it's found that Diana and her brother were convinced by the BBC to think she was being spied on, then it raises the profound question of whether her path would have been different in the final months and years of her life -- Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire, England.


HOLMES: Nigel Farage, one of the U.K.'s biggest Brexit champions, is leaving the political world in one sense. Farage said after 30 years of what he called active party politics, he is stepping down as the head of the Reform U.K. party. He explains why.


NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER LEADER, REFORM U.K. PARTY: For me, I feel my political career, in the sense of actively leading a political party, fighting election campaigns, such as the ones that are coming up in May this year, I think that now is the moment for me to say, look, I have done it.

I guess, in some ways, it is a repeat of what I said in 2016 when I said, I want my life back.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: But according to Farage, it isn't actually retirement. He plans to keep campaigning for Brexit policies and fighting what he calls a, quote, "increasing influence of the Chinese Communist Party."


HOLMES: A swarm of earthquakes has Iceland on edge.

Could a major volcanic eruption be in the offing?

When we come back, we ask our meteorologist.




HOLMES: There have been 17,000 earthquakes in Iceland in just the past week, have a think about that, 17,000. The quakes have caused little damage so far, although, officials report some rock falls and some cracks in roads. The largest was magnitude 5.6. One of the quakes was close to a volcano, prompting authorities to warn that an eruption was, quote, "more likely than not."


HOLMES: A NASA rover this week, taking its first drive on Mars. Here's a photograph of it. The NASA rover wheel tracks on the red surface.


HOLMES: A NASA engineer saying that the rover's first 33 minute test drive on Thursday went incredibly well. This is the first of many milestones for NASA's mission after the rover's successful Mars landing on February 18th.

The rover is expecting to go on drives, averaging nearly 700 feet or more, as it explores Mars over the next two years.

Seven hundred feet.

One surprise side effect of the coronavirus vaccine isn't medical at all. It is all the fun people are having, watching celebrities and world leaders get their shots. Some of them are giving viewers quite an eyeful. Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most American public figures have been demurely rolling up their sleeves, modestly exposing arms, even as Arnold joked

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Put that needle down. MOOS (voice-over): But elsewhere, shirts were going down. For

instance, this South African doctor went viral, thanks to his impressive physique. Meet the hunky vaxers.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was welcomed into their ranks.

STEPHEN COLBERT, CBS HOST: People are getting the first dose and I didn't know that one possible side effect of the shot was of the gun show.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: That was just left over from 40 years and 40 pounds ago, when I used to be in shape.

MOOS (voice-over): But Neil showed barely any skin compared to the French health minister. Someone joked, he was promoting vaccine uptake as part of "Operation Smolder."

COLBERT: Good PR for the launch of his new fragrance, "Vaccine: the only thing contagious now is passion."

MOOS (voice-over): Then, there was the Croatian finance minister, whose photo op in a skintight T-shirt earned him leering eyeball emojis.

And this photo attracted eyeballs as a reporter suggested, "We need to talk about the Greek prime minister's vaccine pose."

"Very 'Putin on horseback'", commented someone. Not sure if they are needling Putin or the great prime minister.

There is plenty of fanning and adjusting glasses for a better look. This British member of Parliament dispensed with his entire shirt.

At least when Dolly Parton got her shot --

DOLLY PARTON, MUSICIAN: That didn't hurt.

MOOS (voice-over): She dressed for the occasion.

With this peek-a-boo top.

MOOS (voice-over): Dolly just wasn't cut out to roll up sleeves as she crooned new lyrics to her song, "Jolene."

PARTON: "Vaccine, vaccine because, once you're dead, then that's a bit too late."


MOOS (voice-over): But it is not too late for this idea.

"OK, we are going to need a vaccine calendar."

And checking a little beefcake while hoping COVID's days are numbered -- Jeanne Moos, CNN --

PARTON: "Vaccine, vaccine."

MOOS (voice-over): -- New York.


HOLMES: We all need one, don't we?

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Michael Holmes, follow me on Twitter @HolmesCNN. "CONNECTING AFRICA" starts after a short break.