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CNN NEWSROOM

House To Vote On Revised COVID Bill Tuesday; U.S. Could Reach Herd Immunity By Late Summer; Pope Meets Top Shiite Muslim Cleric, Will Visit Christian Town Devastated By ISIS; Monarchy Braces For Interview With Harry And Meghan; Women On The Front Lines Of Fight For Democracy; U.S. Could See Supercharged Tornado Season. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 7, 2021 - 02:00   ET

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


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ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, welcome to all of our viewers in the United States and around the world, I am Robyn Curnow, ahead on CNN.

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

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CURNOW (voice-over): Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan narrowly passes the Senate. Millions of Americans can start to see relief payments by the middle of the month.

And condemning violence, extremism and calling for cooperation between religious, we are live in Iraq, where Pope Francis on the first ever papal visit to the country.

A royal family feud and the world is watching. The rift deepens ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's bombshell interview.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: So we begin with that news millions of Americans are waiting to hear, financial help could finally be on the way. The U.S. Senate passed President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. It does include direct $1,400 payments for some Americans.

It's Mr. Biden's first major achieving as president. He wanted bipartisan support but didn't get it. Not a single Republican voted for it. President Biden spoke shortly after the bill was passed. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I promised the American people that help was on the way. Today I can say we have taken one more giant step forward delivering on that promise, that help is on the way.

This plan will get checks out the door starting this month to the American people who so desperately need the help, many who are lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, will I lose my job or insurance or my home.

Over 85 percent American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person.

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CURNOW: The president is celebrating progress but there's a bit of procedure before that much needed money makes it to Americans. Here is Jessica Dean with that.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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CURNOW: CNN's political analyst Sabrina Siddiqui is joining me now, she's also a White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal."

Sabrina, hi, lovely to see you. Let's talk through this broadly.

Is this Joe Biden's first big political win?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Without question, this is President Biden's first major legislative victory. Now this came on a strict party line vote as expected.

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SIDDIQUI: Not a single Republican voted for this bill but the end result was still the same, which was the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that President Biden campaigned on and said would be his priority as soon as he took office.

He's saying that some of these benefits, in particular another round of stimulus checks to the tune of $1,400, are going to go out to Americans starting this month itself. So I think while this is just one of his priorities since he took office, it is a big victory for the White House because it was vital for them to pass the relief package.

And for it to not really change in a way from what they proposed, the price tag $1.9 trillion, is what Biden proposed and what he campaigned on.

CURNOW: Let's talk about the details. It is notable what did not change and how this could impact ordinary Americans, even the Americans who did not vote for him.

SIDDIQUI: There are a number of provisions in this bill that the White House had said were really necessary, given the toll that the pandemic has had on people's day-to-day lives.

This extends unemployment benefits, roughly $300 weekly payments, through September in addition to the $1,400 stimulus checks. There is also an expansion of child tax credit and there is funding for vaccine distributions and schools reopening and state and local governments.

So a lot of what Biden said would be building blocks as his administration tries to lift people out of the pandemic. He has said there will be a need for a stimulus, another big piece of legislation, to try to revitalize the economy.

In some ways, people can look at this as a two-step process. He has cleared one major hurdle. But he was clear that there are other challenges ahead. And this is just the beginning.

CURNOW: Economists and a lot of politicians had a lot of debate about whether this is too big or little in terms of a stimulus. And certainly it's a history judging move.

How much does Biden's experience and particularly his involvement in the 2008 crisis, what he learned from that, how are those lessons played into this game?

SIDDIQUI: It is really interesting. President Biden had said he would try and work with Republicans to craft some kind of compromise. But as we pointed out, not a single Republicans voted for this bill in the end.

Republicans in their counter offer only proposed $600 billion, just a fraction of what President Biden were seeking. Polling shows it had support of the majority of Americans. I think that was a bit of politics there, to say it may not look bipartisan in Washington but it is bipartisan across the country in terms of perceptions with respect to the American public and key stakeholders in various industries.

I think some of that is that experience and how you sell this to the American people but of course, it just passed one hurdle. The House still has to adopt it for it to become law and for it to go to Biden's desk. And we'll get more of a sense of how this bill is going to be received by the American people.

CURNOW: Sabrina Siddiqui, thank you so much.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

CURNOW: It now looks like the U.S. could reach to herd immunity by late summer, thanks to coronavirus vaccines. That will be whenever enough people are protected against the virus.

That timeline is from CNN's analysts looking at 2 million shots a day. There is no time to waste. Here Johns Hopkins University is reporting almost 30 million known cases so far. Natasha Chen is following the story.

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NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the current pace of about 2 million vaccine doses administered per day, the U.S. could reach herd immunity by late summer through vaccinations alone.

CNN analysis shows 70 percent of the U.S. population could be fully vaccinated by the end of July and 85 percent by mid September. Experts estimate between 70 percent and 85 percent of the population must be protected to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't know how special this is --

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CHEN (voice-over): There is hope on the horizon for people like Peggy Nickola, who's now fully vaccinated. She's hugging her son and daughter-in-law for the first time in a year. PEGGY NICKOLA, VACCINE RECIPIENT: I keep on saying to everybody, if

you have a family cares about you, you are already way ahead. My kids have been extremely wonderful.

CHEN (voice-over): As many states are now expanding vaccine ability beyond the elderly, Dr. Anthony Fauci clarified it is better to vaccinate people ahead of their turn than to let doses go to waste due to canceled appointments or logistical issues.

One challenge for vaccination sites is knowing how many doses they'll get each week. Fulton County, Georgia, is one of the places about to get a huge boost in resources and predictability with the help of FEMA. A steady flow of vaccine shipments to ramp up vaccinations at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

DR. LYNN PAXTON, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT HEALTH DIRECTOR: With this new initiative, the vaccine is coming. And we can handle definitely 6,000 a day.

CHEN (voice-over): The state of California announced Friday that theme parks and counties with lower virus spread can reopen at 15 percent capacity to California residents only, beginning April 1st.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really think it is time and enough people are starting to get vaccinated, I think California needs it. Look at how dead it is out here.

CHEN (voice-over): Connecticut will keep its mask mandate but allow some businesses like restaurants to reopen at full capacity with social distancing requirements. West Virginia is doing the same but allowing bars under those relaxed rules, too.

Health experts are troubled by that.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATION DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: The one place we take our masks office is at restaurants and bars.

So why would you say we have a mask mandate but you can hold full capacity?

At the end of the day, that's where you will see transmissions.

CHEN (voice-over): Meanwhile, some states are completely lifting mask mandates, Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Texas, where the governor there says it is safe to reopen at 100 percent starting Wednesday.

CHEN: After announcing the relaxing of those restrictions, Texas governor Greg Abbott alleged without evidence that migrants coming into Texas were exposing the state's residents to coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci said to MSNBC today that undocumented people in the U.S. should get a vaccine when it is available to them. He said the Department of Homeland Security made it clear there will be no punitive element associated with people getting a vaccine -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.

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CURNOW: More people in the U.S. now say they are willing to get vaccinated. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new poll showing 55 percent of adults now say they are willing to get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible. That number used to be 47 percent back in January and 34 percent in December.

Another poll is showing the same trend. This one says 57 percent of Americans say they've already received a vaccine or will get it soon.

The pope's praise for victims of war in Iraq. He has a busy itinerary, we'll go there live.

And what the royal family is doing leading up to the interview with Harry and Meghan. We'll take a look back at the bombshell interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole premise of the interview was set up on false and dodgy ground.

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CURNOW: Pope Francis is in the Iraqi city of Mosul at this hour. He's been leading prayers for the victims of war. All of the pope's events are taken place under heavy security. Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher is traveling with the pope and she joins us now on the line from the pontiff's next stop.

Good to speak to you. Ben Wedeman is going to join us in a few minutes as well. Give us the sense of implications and the symbolism of pope being in Mosul, which saw some of the worst atrocities when ISIS declared a caliphate.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the most poignant stops on the trip. So many people in Mosul are associated with the ISIS occupation being the de facto headquarters for ISIS for two years and largely destroyed by them and many residents having to flee.

One of the main themes for the pope is to encourage people to come back to the city to help rebuild them, to ask authorities to work together in order to make that possible for people.

Certainly, the fact that the pope is now in Mosul says quite a lot in terms of what's happened in the past few years, politically and, hopefully, what's going to happen in the coming few years for the people of Mosul and of this region.

I'm in Qaraqosh, this is a city of a large Christian population. The pope is coming to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, where ISIS used the courtyard as a firing range. Now Christians are pouring into this courtyard and the pope is going to come here and lead prayer service and speak to them.

This is really the day, Robyn, where we are seeing visually what the pope's message is here in Iraq, not just for Christians but many of the displaced people are also Muslims and other minorities.

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GALLAGHER: So really a day which is bringing together one of the main purposes of coming here, the security of the people. And you will notice in his meeting with Ali al-Sistani yesterday, that was one of the things that the ayatollah said, that Christians should live as all Iraqis.

Sometimes these trips are symbolic and don't lead to anything concrete. But the prime minister yesterday declared, because of this meeting between the pope and the grand ayatollah, declared a national day, March 6th will be from now on a national day for tolerance. So maybe this trip will give some concrete signs of hope for the future for these people -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you so much, Delia Gallagher.

I want to bring in Ben Wedeman.

What is so stunning about these live pictures, I have clear memories of you reporting from Mosul and the devastation of the early days when ISIS took over.

The pope in Mosul, talking about outreach and reaching out to the Christians and non-Christian communities in the region, what do you think?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's just a total reversal of the situation that was here in northern Iraq and throughout the whole country just a few years ago. I remember being here in the fall of 2014. ISIS was just about half an hour or 40 minutes drive from here.

And now, of course, the pope is in Mosul. And it was in the summer of 2014 that Abu Baker al-Baghdadi called on his followers to conquer Rome. Now the pope is in Mosul.

He's also going to Qaraqosh, a town I was in, in the beginning of 2017, just after it was liberated. And what we saw when we went back there recently was that, physically, the town has come back. The people who fled have returned. But it will take years for the psychological trauma of ISIS' occupation to be overcome.

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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.

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.

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WEDEMAN (voice-over): Hoping darkness will not descend upon them yet again.

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WEDEMAN: Of course, the question is, after this visit ends tomorrow by Pope Francis, are things really going to change for Iraq?

That's hard to say. This is a country beset by many problems and political instability and corruption. And there are still frequent attacks by ISIS. Nonetheless, for these few days Iraqis are able to watch a happy story, a story that does give some hope to the future. This country, when CNN pays attention to it, oftentimes the news is

bad. So for Iraqis to see happiness and celebrations is a welcome change. Robyn.

CURNOW: Absolutely. And this all for reconciliation as well. The pope is speaking in the church square in Mosul. It was a beautiful piece you did there about the Christian communities being decimated there in Iraq.

Is there a sense this trip will not just heal wounds throughout Iraq but throughout the region?

WEDEMAN: That's a hard one to say because everyone of these countries has unique problems. What may work in Iraq may not work elsewhere. I am based in Lebanon. It has massive economic and political problems.

And if Pope Francis were to come next week to Lebanon, he would not be able, I don't think God can solve Lebanon's problems at this point. But for Iraq, at least temporarily, it's made a very big different. But for the problems of this region unfortunately, papal intervention will not be able to have much impact.

CURNOW: As you say, thank you, Ben, a symbolic visit, particularly in the midst of this pandemic, for the pope to show up, certainly and an indication of where his heart lies. Ben Wedeman, always great to speak to you. Thanks very much for your reporting.

You are watching CNN, more news after the break.

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CURNOW: At 30 minutes past the hour, welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I am Robyn Curnow.

In just a few hours, the British monarchy will be full in display. The queen will take part in the Commonwealth Day of service. She is expected to talk about unity. Just hours after that, Oprah Winfrey's highly anticipated interview will be broadcast around the world.

Buckingham Palace has not commented on the interview. Meanwhile, Prince Philip remains in a London hospital. Joining us from outside the hospital is CNN's Anna Stewart.

Certainly, a busy Sunday there in the U.K. And, of course, here in the U.S., with the blockbuster interview that is going to be taking place.

What's the feeling where you are?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is hard to know where to look. Prince Philip is in hospital, this big occasion for the royal family today. It's one of the biggest days of the royal calendar.

The queen has recorded and all the members of the royal family will be there in the special show broadcast from the BBC. Obviously missing the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their show with Oprah Winfrey will broadcast hours later.

Really extraordinary when you consider it was just a year ago the Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined the royal family and celebrated together. That was the last time we saw them all together. My goodness, how much has changed in a year.

CURNOW: It certainly has.

Looking ahead of that interview, is there any sense of what may come out besides these clips and the reaction that possibly is being felt in the inner circle of Buckingham Palace?

STEWART: It is two hours long. We do expect some explosive insights in to what it is to be a member of the royal family from the outside of the perspective. This is something until the clips trailed, we have not heard from Meghan, heard her speak about her experiences.

We have heard from Prince Harry. But this is the first time we are hearing from Meghan and parallels are all being drawn between this interview and that done with Diana with Martin Bashir in 1995.

She famously said there are three of us in this marriage.

Also the interview with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the king who abdicated and the woman he left the crown for, Wallis Simpson. So that is the parallel we're getting This is the outsider's perspective of the royal family.

I am not sure we'll know how Buckingham Palace will react because that's the issue at stake here. They have a bit of a no comment policy. They don't comment on speculative stories. It will be interesting to see if they'll break that mold to say anything.

CURNOW: Anna Stewart, thank you, live in London.

In 1995, Princess Diana opened up to a BBC journalist about life at Buckingham Palace. Her private secretary talked about the similarities with the current rift in the royal family.

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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. [02:35:00]

JEPHSON: 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.

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CURNOW: Now Diana's interview led to more scandal, including a BBC internal investigation. Max Foster now explains.

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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?

CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES: (INAUDIBLE).

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.

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CURNOW: And CBS is paying at least $7 million for this Harry and Meghan's interview according to "The Wall Street Journal" that also reports the Duke and duchess are not being paid to talk to Winfrey. The TV network is asking roughly $325,000 for 30 seconds of commercial time. That's about twice the normal rate.

For more news of the British family, we have a new service for you, go to cnn.com/royalnews. It launches on Monday so sign up now.

There's more to come here on CNN, protesters in Myanmar using shields to protect themselves from police, the latest on their fight for democracy. That's ahead. Plus, women in Myanmar are leading the fight in democracy. That's also coming up.

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CURNOW (voice-over): These police are firing rubber bullets at pro- democracy protesters in Myanmar, who are hiding behind homemade shields. In other cities, police are using tear gas but that's not stopping the demonstrations which are taking place after a night of crackdowns. Reuters reports that security forces raided residential areas in Yangon overnight and made several arrests.

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CURNOW: Women in Myanmar are taking active roles in the fight for democracies, proving they are not afraid to face down security forces. Women have a lot to lose if the country is governed by the patriarchal military junta.

"The New York Times" reports that hundreds of thousands of female teachers, garment workers and medical workers are marching every day. Women are also being killed in these protests. One of the most recent was the 19-year-old whose English name was Angel.

Women are marching unarmed and unafraid, wearing ballgowns to fight for the future of Myanmar, as you can see from this powerful image.

Miemie Winn Byrd is an adjunct fellow at the East-West Center. She joins me now live from Honolulu, Hawaii.

Lovely to see you. You are Burmese American, served in the U.S. Army.

Why have women in Myanmar become warriors in these protests?

MIEMIE WINN BYRD, ADJUNCT FELLOW, EAST-WEST CENTER: Aloha, thank you for having me. These women are the result of 10 years of democracy and 10 years of opening that they have experienced. Traditionally, women have a very stereotyped role in that culture and the last 10 years, they have -- their eyes have been opened because the country was open.

And a lot of our international aid always had a component of women empowerment. So we are seeing the result of it. So not only they feel that this -- the protest in the political arena is relevant to women.

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BYRD: They now also have the capabilities and ability to participate and lead in this protest, which is different from previous protests.

CURNOW: What's also interesting is, they're unarmed, defiant and also using their femininity in many ways to challenge these generals. As I was saying, one powerful image is groups of young women coming out in formal dresses and ballgowns, staring down men with guns. They are not afraid. BYRD: Right, that is. They're utilizing their femininity to the -- as

a strength. And one of -- some of the women are saying they're we, as mother, as future mothers, have the responsible for this -- for the democracy in Myanmar.

So they are equating motherhood and being a mother as a leadership quality. That's one of the interesting things that is coming out of this.

CURNOW: It is very inspiring and it is not just about the future and about losing hard won rights but they have also lost a female leader in Aung San Suu Kyi.

What else do you think is the end game here?

Do you think there's a sense of optimism if these women feel like they can stare down the junta?

BYRD: They are. They are very courageous, very committed and very creative. So there are certain part of this protest that's different from previous. So they do things like CDM, civil disobedience movement, that's something different, especially the teachers.

Teachers and professors are leading their students. And when you talk about teachers and professors of the university, 80 percent are women. So when they're out there leading, this mostly women.

So yes, also, Aung San Suu Kyi, they had a great role model. And they call her Mother. So they now associate with being a mother with being a leader. And they are very committed to their cause and they truly believe they can do this.

CURNOW: You mentioned teachers but certainly there is diversity to this protest movement. It's doctors, garment workers, unions banding together.

How important is that?

BYRD: It is very important because that's what is going to lead them to success, is the diversity of participation and the commitment of this. You know, I would say Myanmar is currently at the front line of a global fight for democracy. And these women are at this tip of the spear of this fight.

CURNOW: Tip of the spear, I know "The New York Times" article, somebody said women are adding spine to this civil disobedience movement. We're also seeing the youngest of the youngest, one women, whose English name was Angel, killed. Many of these women are willing to die for this, even though they are not mothers yet.

How are these martyrs, the women, playing into the anger and the defiance?

BYRD: I think it has added to more commitment. Every time someone is killed and instead of being afraid, what I am seeing is they're more committed to the cause and they just don't want to go back to the dark days of, you know, authoritarianism, military regime before. So they really are committed to democracy and they are willing to fight for it.

CURNOW: Thank you very much for joining us. Miemie Winn Byrd, really appreciate your perspective. Thank you very much, have a lovely day.

BYRD: Thank you.

CURNOW: This year's tornado season in the U.S. could be more dangerous than usual. When we come back, our meteorologist will have details on what to expect. You are watching CNN.

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CURNOW: The U.S. could see a fierce, fierce tornado season this year, one similar to the deadly one in 2011. That year saw hundreds of tornadoes and over 500 deaths, a year of massive and deadly tornadoes in places like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.

Ring a bell?

Seems the weather patterns this winter are following roughly the same playbook as that year.

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CURNOW: I'm Robyn Curnow. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I'll be back in just a moment with more CNN.