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Re-Floating Massive Ship Coup Take Up to a Week; Merkel Apologizes for Confusion over Easter Restrictions; Two Contrasting Vaccine Rollouts along the Irish Border; Reconnecting the Atlantic Forest' Nike Statement on Xinjiang Triggers Chinese Backlash; U.S. Secretary of State To Wrap Talks with NATO Allies; Bulgaria Breaks Alleged Russian Spy Ring; North Korea Tests Biden Administration With Short-Range Missile Launch; Olympic Torch Bearers Try To Project Hope And Recovery; Blocked Suez Canal Could Take A Week To Clear; E.U. And U.K. In Vaccine Distribution Dispute; AstraZeneca Releases Revised Efficacy Stats In The U.S. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 25, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN live from CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.

Coming up this hour. North Korea fires off a message to the Biden Administration, launching two short-range ballistic missiles.

Vaccine rumble in a post-Brexit world. The E.U. insisting ramped up export controls are not aimed at the U.K., even though the U.K. is likely to be impacted the most.

Take one of the world's biggest cargo ships, run it aground in one of the world's biggest waterways and there you have it. Why costs could rise for almost everything in the weeks ahead.

It seems to appear Pyongyang is back to business as usual. Sixty- three days after Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. commander-in-chief, the North Koreans have carried out a second missile test in less than a week.

Just after 7:00 a.m. Thursday, two short-range ballistic missiles were launched from North Korea's east coast, traveled 450 kilometers before landing in the sea.

That brought a strong rebuke from the Japanese prime minister.


YOSHIHIDE SUGA, PRIME MINISTER, JAPAN (Through Translator): It is a threat to our country and to the regional security. It is also a violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution. We will strictly protest and condemn their action.


VAUSE: CNN's Paula Hancocks following developments in Seoul. She joins us live.

There clearly was a message here from Kim Jong-un to the new Biden Administration. As you say, we've seen this kind of stuff before.

But there's also this message coming back from regional leaders -- we just heard from the prime minister of Japan -- but there are other regional leaders which have been very strident in their condemnation as well.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, John. The short-range missiles do concern those in the region, to be honest, far more than the United States because if they were ever to be used then they are to be used against those in the region.

So clearly, what we heard from Japan's prime minister is that Japan is concerned. It was fired towards the waters just off the west coast of Japan as well. The South Korean national security council held an emergency meeting and they said that they have grave concerns as well.

It'll be interesting to see what the U.S. response is. Because this isn't one of the longer range missiles that would concern Washington more but it is still a ballistic missile which is against United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Now previous president, Donald Trump, didn't concern himself with these short-range missiles, it's unlikely to be the same with the Biden Administration. We do expect some kind of response.

So really what we're seeing is North Korea over the last weekend tested the boundaries to see what kind of response they might get from testing a weapon but not a ballistic missile from the Biden Administration. They're now going one step further.

And this is often the way they go; slowly, slowly, seeing where the limits are and see how far they can push it.

VAUSE: I want to know about these missiles. Because there was the test launch over the weekend which were also short-range missiles, these ballistic missiles -- is there anything new? Any details which have been learned from what the intelligence community picked up?

HANCOCKS: Well, that's what everyone's looking at this point. What everyone -- those in the know will be waiting for is any kind of images that we get from North Korea through state-run media to see whether or not it's one of the new kinds of missiles that Kim Jong-un has been talking about. He has spoken of having new technologies.

We saw in October last year a parade where there were certain elements and certain weapons that would need some kind of testing. So, that's really the next key question.

What exactly did he test and is it pushing his weapons program forward? Because we have to remember it's not just a message to a Biden Administration or any administration around the world, it is also to progress their weapons' progress.

And make sure that whatever they are coming up with or whatever they have created and paraded does actually work should they need it.

So we have heard from Kim Jong-un over recent months that he is ready to test again. He didn't feel himself kept back by any moratorium, any self imposed moratorium he had promised to the former president Donald Trump.

And also, this is quite normal for a new U.S. administration to be welcomed with some kind of missile from North Korea.

VAUSE: Yes. Quite the welcoming present. Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks, live in Seoul.


The E.U. and the U.K. appear to have walked back from the brink of a vaccine trade dispute with a joint statement saying they're working together to create a win-win situation.

The E.U. had earlier announced tightened export restrictions which would've seen all future exports of vaccines dependent on the vaccination rate of the destination country and how many doses were already available.

The U.K. happens to be in much better shape right now COVID-wise than most of Europe. Earlier, an E.U. Commission official basically said it was every country for themselves.


VALDIS DOMBROVSKIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT FOR ECONOMY, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Our export authorization mechanism is not, so to say, addressed at any specific country. But it's clear that in the E.U. will have to ensure vaccination of all our population and there, indeed, we are in a sense behind as a schedule.


VAUSE: Europe right now is dealing with a third wave of infections brought about in part by a sluggish vaccine rollout.

And that could have an impact on the U.K. We have details from Scott McLean.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The E.U. and the U.K. say that they are working together on specific solutions to expand vaccine supply despite a European Commission proposal that could result in vaccine exports being blocked to countries that have fewer new cases and a bigger supply of vaccines.

British prime minister, Boris Johnson, says the U.K. would not retaliate with trade blockades of its own if the E.U. makes good on the proposed policy but told a parliamentary committee that a trade blockade could have other consequences. BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I would just gently point out

to anybody considering a blockade or an interruption of supply chains that companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where arbitrary blockades are imposed.

MCLEAN: Now it's pretty easy for the prime minister to make the case against export restrictions because the U.K. at the moment isn't exporting any finished vaccines itself.

Its deal with vaccine maker AstraZeneca requires the company to fulfill domestic orders before sending any doses abroad.

The U.K. is light years ahead of mainland Europe in its vaccine rollout having given at least one dose to 54 percent of its adult population.

Meanwhile, Europe is dealing with the onset of a third wave of infection without enough vaccines to stop it.

Things have gotten so serious in France that the prime minister says he is prepared to impose restrictions even on truck drivers hauling goods across the English Channel if it's needed to protect public health and stop new variants from getting in warning his government may have to do that very soon.

MCLEAN (On Camera): Scott Mclean, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Arthur Caplan is a professor of bio-ethics and the director of medical ethics at New York University. He is with us this hour from Ridgefield in Connecticut.

Professor Caplan, good to see you. Thanks for coming back.


VAUSE: OK. Well, the E.U. is trying to frame this argument along the lines that it's all AstraZeneca's fault for not meeting those promised production numbers and therefore export controls are needed.

One official told "The Washington Post" the new criteria for vaccine exports are a way for the E.U. to have a conversation with the U.K. to not block exports but to force AstraZeneca to produce for both the U.K. and the E.U.

On the other hand, the U.K. says not being part of the E.U., that allowed them to move quickly and early, negotiate deals with vaccine makers. And at the end of the day, this seems entirely predictable when there is no international agreement, no global system for equitable distribution of vaccines.

CAPLAN: Well, John, I think a lot of people thought that the biggest battle might turn out to be the developed world against lower and middle-income countries. And here we have this spat breaking out between Britain and the E.U., I think probably a direct descendant of Brexit where people are sort of angry about that and now pointing fingers back and forth about production.

But it's obvious that they have to come up with a reasonable sharing plan.

The U.K. has been rolling out AstraZeneca vaccine for a while. The E.U. is so far behind it is facing outbreaks and lockdowns.

VAUSE: Yes. And one of the things that the E.U. is trying to point out here is that this is not targeting Britain specifically. The E.U. Commission's Vladis Dombrovskis has made the argument that since the export authorization system was put in place, 10 million doses of vaccine have been exported to the U.K. and nothing has come back to the E.U.

Here's the rest of his argument.


DOMBROVSKIS: If we discuss reciprocity, solidarity and, (inaudible) say, global responsibility. So it's clear that we also need to look at those aspects of reciprocity and proportionality.


VAUSE: What is this system of reciprocity -- (inaudible) you say it -- but how does this actually work?

CAPLAN: Well, it isn't a system, it's a set of moral -- dare I say it -- presumptions. That we bought and contracted to get vaccine, you're hoarding it, we want some of it to come back to us or more of it to come back to it (ph) and we expect you, Britain, to honor what was promised to us.

Weirdly, some of the vaccine's made in E.U. countries so there's saber rattling going on that we're not going to send it to you if you don't share it back to us.

Meanwhile, something else, John, is going on in the middle of this fight.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been called out by its own safety committee for perhaps releasing information on efficacy that wasn't accurate. I've never heard of that happening.

But what's happening is a lot of people in the E.U., not the leadership, but citizens are starting to say I'm not going to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, I'm not sure I can trust it.

This could turn out to be a worse situation not just because of trade fights, but because of a loss of trust.

VAUSE: And they're now doing an end run around the E.U. leadership in Brussels, a lot of these member states negotiating directly with Russia for the Sputnik vaccine.

CAPLAN: Right. So I saw a poll that said 66 percent or more of citizens in France, 50 percent or more of people in Germany said they don't want the AZ vaccine, they're not sure about its safety, they don't trust it.

Turning to Russia for the Sputnik V vaccine is an irony on top of ironies. That's not been published, reviewed much in the peer review literature -- I'm not saying it's a bad vaccine but very little is known about that. We know a lot about the AZ vaccine because it's been used in Britain extensively and it looks pretty good.

Europe, I think is facing a crisis. Lack of trust in vaccines, importing things from Russia with a continent that's already on edge about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. The populace -- we could be facing a very long year if this doesn't all get sorted out.

VAUSE: And it's important to note, the vaccine supply line like Pfizer has almost 300 additives from more than 80 countries. So anything involving vaccines, a trade dispute has the potential to go global.

We also heard from the prime minister, from the Britain prime -- British prime minister. He had this rare moment of clarity, insight and maybe even honesty during a meeting with Tory backbenchers.

Johnson made an unguarded comment in which he claimed that the U.K.'s successful vaccine rollout was "because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends," multiple sources who were on the call have confirmed to CNN.

So in other words, it was this sort of moment.


MICHAEL DOUGLAS AS GORDON GEKKO, "THE WOLF ON WALL STREET": Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.


VAUSE: Greed has been good for wealthy countries able to buy billions of doses of vaccines, greed has been good for the vaccine makers who are not releasing intellectual property rights so that poorer countries can actually make the vaccines and the vaccines which we have are the result of huge investment from public financing.

So greed is good, but only for so many.

CAPLAN: Yes. Well, look, no one is safe in the world against COVID until the world has been vaccinated. That's just the bottom line.

If we don't stop acting like juveniles and start to come up with a plan for distribution of many kinds of vaccines as options both to Europe and to Africa and to Asia and South America then we're going to have outbreak after outbreak, new variants, people not taking the vaccine leading to more and more outbreaks. And this thing's not going to go away. It's time for everybody to

stop saber rattling, start being -- stop being childish and let's get a policy in place so that countries can individually become secure and then the globe quickly be made secure.

VAUSE: So we're out of time, Arthur. But at the end of the day, greed, when it comes to vaccines, is good for no one. Nice to see you.

CAPLAN: Greed is good for no one when it comes to vaccines.

VAUSE: Good to see you. Thank you, Arthur. Appreciate it.

CAPLAN: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Well, a short time ago AstraZeneca released new data on its COVID vaccine efficacy. That's after a U.S. review board suggested the drug giant used information that was up to date, it was cherry picked -- in a news release earlier this week.

Well, the latest figures show the vaccine is 76 percent effective in preventing symptoms; Monday, the company claimed 79 percent. So there's not a big difference there. It still claims the vaccine's 100 percent effective in stopping severe disease.

But none of that data has been peer reviewed -- so we have to take AstraZeneca's word for it. They say the peer review will come in the weeks ahead along with an application for emergency use authorization in the United States.

Now to the maritime traffic jam in the Suez Canal. And the longer a massive container remains stuck and blocking one of the world's busiest waterways, the greater the cost to global business.

According to one estimate about 10 percent of the world's daily oil consumption is being transported on about 20 petroleum tankers waiting to transit.


CNN's John Defterios is following all of this from Abu Dhabi.

And John, efforts have been underway overnight. What's the latest from those --


VAUSE: -- who're getting this 20-foot vessel off the sand where it's stuck?

DEFTERIOS: Yes. Well, John, there's been a lot of different reports that have been there and some that are not involved in the process.

We do know that we've crossed a major threshold now, 48 hours into the maritime disaster. And there was eight tug boats working yesterday and overnight to dislodge the "Ever Given," the vessel itself, 400 meters long.

But BSM is a technical manager and they put out a statement in the last four or five hours -- let's call it stage two of the process which has the tugboats involved. But at the same time they're dredging underneath to try to just dig up the sand because the front of that vessel's stuck in there diagonally.

They did report it was a sandstorm, there was other reports that it was a blackout or a technical failure which they denied. And they suggested now it is going to have a problem in terms of the supply chain.

And they didn't give any clear indication yet when this will be solved. Some say two to three days others say up to a week.

Let's take a listen.


DEFTERIOS: A traffic jam on one of the most important waterways in the world. The Suez Canal was blocked on Tuesday when a very large container carrier got stuck preventing other vessels from moving in either direction along the crucial east-west trading route that weighs around 12 percent of world trade.

Sailing under the flag of Panama, the "Ever Given" ran around six nautical miles from the southern end of the estuary.

Four hundred meters long and 59 meters wide, the giant vessel got caught navigating through a sandstorm. The crew reported no injuries and no damage to cargo.

SAMIR MADANI, TANKER TRACKER CO-FOUNDER: Given the sheer size of the vessel, being very tall and wide it seems like it became a sail. This is a very freak event, I would say that this is the first time I'm actually spectating anything like this where a narrow body of water has just been entirely closed off by directional traffic.

DEFTERIOS: Eight tugboats are attempting to refloat the ship according to the Suez Canal Authority. A senior canal pilot tells CNN that the process could take two days to a week and doubts the ship can sail and will need to be dragged.

Nevertheless, the senior pilot believes once floated there will be two to three days of ship congestion before things are flowing normally.

Analytics report Textar (ph) said that 10 oil tankers carrying 13 million barrels of crude, about 14 percent of daily demand, could be affected by the delay.

Nearly 19,000 ships, on average more than 50 ships per day, passed through the Canal last year.

A man-made engineering marvel, the busy Egyptian shipping lane is the quickest maritime link between Asia and Europe. At least when unobstructed. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DEFTERIOS: And there was some freaking out on the oil market yesterday because of the numbers that we're talking about, 14 percent of supplies, John. And there's again a number of different indications on that.

Right now we have low prices down one-and-a-half percent after spiking up three-and-a-half percent yesterday, not knowing when this would be cleared up.

VAUSE: That is the question. Let's talk about supply chains very quickly because there's the immediate impact of the ships being held at either end. And not just on oil as well, pretty much everything else which you could buy -- there are ships which haven't left port yet and they've been delayed as well waiting to see how this all plays out.

What's the cumulative effect here?

DEFTERIOS: Well, if you've seen the images from Tanker Trackers, for example, you can see there's dozens of vessels -- we don't have an exact number here -- at the north and south entrance. Maersk alone, which is the largest shipper, was saying it has seven vessels involved in this process, four within the Canal itself.

And this does have a major ripple effect. Because when do you decide to reroute around the horn of Africa and the additional cost? We already know that the Suez Canal Authority is suggesting that they're talking about compensation, the insurance claims against the Japanese owner of the vessel is a major issue as well.

This is just getting started.

But not a good time with COVID-19 and trying to reboot the global economy especially in Europe, which is struggling with the vaccines.

VAUSE: Never a good time to run aground in the Suez Canal. Especially now. John, thank you.

DEFTERIOS: Yes. For sure.

VAUSE: John Defterios from Abu Dhabi. Thank you.

Japan's Olympics torch relay now underway. The country hopes to show the world it has recovered from a tragic past of natural disasters.

But one torchbearer is using his run to show his loved ones he hasn't forgotten them. That story and more when we return.


VAUSE: Japan now celebrating the start of the Olympic torch relay more than seven months after the Games were actually meant to close.

10,000 torchbearers will travel through Japan with the flame before it reaches its destination at the Olympic opening ceremony. That will be July 23rd.

CNN's Blake Essig is joining us now with the final town where the torch will pass through on this day.

And a lot of rules in place because you can't have a torch relay in a pandemic without a lot of rules.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. And it begins. This is the third location that we've been to here in Minamisoma.

We were at three other -- two other places, smaller events, as you can see just over my right shoulder there's a big -- there's tents, there's a big set up expecting a large crowd.

But these Olympic Games have been billed as the recovery games which is why the whole idea of starting a torch relay here in northeast Japan has taken place, to highlight that recovery.

But when I've talk to Fukushima residents about the idea of recovery, the answer that I get is always the same; polite laughter.

And if you spend a little time here, you begin to understand why.

The road to recovery is different for everyone. For 48-year old Takayuki Ueno who has suffered unimaginable loss, it's a road lined with guilt and no end in sight.

TAKAYUKI UENO, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (Through Translator): For me, it is totally impossible. My family will never come back.

ESSIG: This home altar honors the memory of his daughter, son and parents. They lost their lives when they were swept away more than 10 years ago by a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Japan's northeast coast.

Ueno plans to send a special message to an unseen audience of four when he carries the Olympic flame as a torchbearer.

Ryoji Sakuma will also carry the torch. His path towards recovery started when he was just six in 2011. Forced back then to evacuate their dairy farm in Katsurao due to the fallout from the Fukushima- Daichi disaster, he'll run with the torch to show the world that his small village is still trying hard to recover.

RYOJI SAKUMA, OLYMPIC TORCHBEARER (Through Translator): Recovery means for me that Katsurao Village will be rejuvenated and people can come back and live happily.

ESSIG: It's an idea that will be on display all across the disaster ravaged area of Fukushima throughout the torch relay in Tokyo 2020 days. An event which the Japanese government has billed as the recovery games.

I'm walking along the roughly 500-meter relay route in Futaba town and this is what the world is going to see. A handful of newly constructed buildings like this train station. But if you look at the bigger picture, just about a block away

buildings and homes remain abandoned, decayed and in ruin. A result of the ongoing fears of radiation.


Fears that Nobuyoshi Ito believes are justified. He lives in Iitate, about 30 kilometers from the damaged power plant.

This former farmer was forced into retirement after the nuclear disaster. Ever since, he's been armed at all times with a Geiger counter measuring radiation levels.

NOBUYOSHI ITO, RETIRED FARMER (Through Translator): My dosimeter shows two to three micro sieverts per hour. If 0.05 is the standard level, it is 30 to 40 times higher. 0.05 is the level before the nuclear accident.

ESSIG: Ito, known affectionately as the Monitoring Grandpa took us to several spots around town including the torch relay route to highlight elevated levels of radiation.

While Ito says exposure at these levels doesn't pose immediate danger, a United Nations special report outlined concern for younger generations and the potential for serious health problems they could face years down the road.

UENO (Through Translator): Protecting children is everything for a parent and I am a parent who could not protect his children.

ESSIG: On the day of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Ueno was at work. He saved others thinking his family had evacuated. Instead they took shelter at his home one kilometer from the coast too close to the waters that would rise swiftly and sweep them away.

He says his recovery will only come when he can think straight and reflect on the death of his parents and children. For now, all he can do is send a message to his family watching from the heavens. He'll do that while carrying the Olympic flame.

UENO (Through Translator): I want to tell them I'm well, I'm all right so they don't have to worry about me. I'm going to run smiling so that my father, mother, Erica (ph) and Kutara (ph) will not worry about me.

ESSIG (On Camera): Well, Olympic organizers are hopeful that this torch relay generates public support and excitement for the Olympics that to this point, John, are still deeply unpopular.

VAUSE: Yes. Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there with a live report on the very latest on the Olympics. Appreciate it.

We'll take a short break.

When we come back, stuck in the Suez Canal. How to move a massive ship that's blocking dozens of oil tankers and other cargo ships from passing through this vital waterway.



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

Well, a second missile test for North Korean in less than a week, launching two short range ballistic missiles early Thursday off the East Coast which landed in the sea near Japan. The Japanese prime minister calls it a threat to peace and security.

The E.U. as tightened export controls over COVID vaccines under new regulations. The vaccination rate of the country and how many doses it already has available would be a factor. Exports to poorer countries under the COVAX program would not be affected.

And right now, maritime traffic is going nowhere in the Suez Canal and the delay could continue for a while. One expert says it could take a week to refloat the massive cargo ship the Ever Given which has ran aground at one of the most narrow points in the canal and is proving especially difficult to move.

And the challenge for many shipping companies and global suppliers right now is to work out how long it will take to clear the canal and the traffic jam at either end.

There are other options here which ultimately come down to a question of time and money.


MARCUS BAKER, GLOBAL HEAD OF MARINE AND CARGO, MARSH INC.: The practicalities and logistics of getting a container crane into position alongside to actually reach up, you know, 10 storeys high above the (INAUDIBLE) of the ship to actually take off some of these containers. And then put them somewhere else.

I think, it's going to be -- it would be very interesting.


VAUSE: To the San Francisco Bay area now and Don Maier, dean of the School of Maritime Transportation Logistics and Management at Cal Maritime.

Thank you for being with us, Don.

I want to ask you first up this sort of game of risk which is happening right now. If you are back at FedEx, working logistics and supply like you did, would you sit tight right now and wait for the Ever Given to be cleared and hope in three days? Or just cut your losses and head for that southern route around South Africa?

DON MAIER, SCHOOL OF MARITIME TRANSPORTATION LOGISTICS AND MANAGEMENT AT CAL MARITIME: Yes. I think for right now, I would probably bide my time and wait a couple of days because if I go down and around the Cape of Good Hope around South Africa, it's probably going to add at least another week to 10 days to my transit time.

So I think those additional couple of days, I'd probably rebuild into my supply chain and any delays that I might. So most of the flag ships will do that anyway, so a couple of days we can handle in terms of the delay. Anything beyond that is going to be a little bit more costly.

But right now, cost and the amount of time that it will take to go down and around the Cape of Good Hope, I will probably just wait a few days.

VAUSE: Ok, so this isn't clear in a couple of days, then we start getting into some serious issues. Take a look at the view of the Ever Given, it's been photographed by orbiting satellites. It's that big.

Here's where it ran aground at a narrow point within the canal and that could be a tricky area to navigate. Came up and led to something that they call the bank effect. Can you explain what that is on a ship this size, in fairly simple terms? And do you think that may have played a role in what happened here?

MAIER: Yes, absolutely, it does play -- take effect in terms of this situation. So what had happened is because the canal is so narrow and the ship is so large, that the shipping canal in which the navigation of the ship can actually travel through is much more narrow than what we actually see in terms of the videos.

So when you have the large winds (ph) that came across from the storm, it basically took the ship and started to twist it sideways, which then jammed the ship into place, which is what has occurred.


VAUSE: Sorry --

MAIER: -- these toy boats in a bathtub and then splashing it around and then there's actually no control of the boat itself.

VAUSE: Wow. Oh yes, sounds like quite a wild ride to say the least. You know, tugboats alone are not able to move the ship. One option is to actually take some of the cargo from the ship which is much easier said than done. Listen to this.

MAIER: Yes it's going to be --

VAUSE: Oh, we didn't have a sound bite. We're basically -- that about what you actually do -- what do you have to go through to actually get this cargo off. It seems like it's not going to be possible in some respects.

MAIER: Right. Yes, it's going to be much more difficult -- I know that if we -- perhaps we could take a barge, hold it up alongside but then you got to get a crane that's high enough to get above to the top of the containers to best start lifting them off one by one, place them on a barge, slide it off to the side, and be able to get enough of the weight off of the ship in order to then pull it off of the grounding.

So, that's a lot more challenging than what people realize. Because all you're trying to do is lessen the weight of the ship itself. So another option is by reducing some of the ballast order (ph) or you've been taking off some of the bunker fuel or the fuel itself on the ship. That might also be another option.

But again, each one of those takes a lot more time and it's very expensive to do.

VAUSE: How do you see this playing out? If the, you know, tugs can't do the job, what is the next option and what's the next option after that?

MAIER: Yes, in terms of, you know, the different options, and the whole period of time as to when it's going to happen, John. It's going to be a lot more challenging.


MAIER: I think what we're probably going to do, or what they will probably do is get a couple of dredgers in and then it will start digging away some of the silt and the sand and the mud in front of the bow and at the stern to see if they can loosen up some of that.

And then with the number of tugs, I believe they had about 10 tugs already lined up on both sides of the ship. And essentially what they're going to do is just kind of like a couple of tow trucks pulling away a 53-foot tractor trail out of the snowbank. Essentially it's what it is. And the just keep pulling it.

Hopefully they can loosen up enough of the silt so the ship will start to loosen up. And then they can start the engines, possibly, and that starts to twist the ship to where it can get back in that shipping channel.

So it is one thing, right after another, but it's all of the little steps that they're trying to do first before they really have to do the more expensive one, taking some of those containers off the ship.

VAUSE: And just very quickly, if we get to the point where, you know, this goes on for days, days, and days, there are huge costs involved, not just for the ships on either end but for the ships which are being delayed, for those who were expecting their cargo, but they are not receiving it. There will be lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit. And it all goes to the one owner of the Ever Given, right? This is hundreds of millions of dollars possibly.

MAIER: Well yes. That's where it starts to get a little bit more challenging especially in regards to (INAUDIBLE) because you have the owner of the ship but then you also have who's chartering that ship from the owner, so essentially, a lot of that goes down to the liability.

And in some cases, believe it or not, it is also each one of the shippers that has a container on that vessel, all share a portion of that liability of lawsuits too, believe it or not.

So, you can have one container of one box in one of those containers and you could have an equal share, in all of the liability cases as well. So, it's a lot more challenging than people realize.

You know, and like I said John before, it's a lot of the other ships that are all backed up, that's where the bigger issues are going to be coming especially in terms of the supply chains and that disruption.

VAUSE: Wow. Don, we are out of time, but great to have you with. We really appreciate your insights there. You know, we learn something new every day, I guess.

Don Maier there in San Francisco.

MAIER: Well, thank you very much, John. I appreciate being here tonight.

VAUSE: Thank you. Be well.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has apologized for causing confusion over coronavirus restrictions. She walked back her plan for a hard lockdown over the upcoming Easter holiday.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It's important to say here, a mistaken needs to be called a mistake and above all, it must be corrected. And if possible, this needs to happen as soon as possible.

At the same time I'm aware that this whole business has created even more uncertainty. And I deeply regret this and asked forgiveness.


VAUSE: Initially she planned for Thursday and Saturday next right before Easter would be rest days but now most businesses will no longer have to close on those days.

Nowhere is the huge disparity between the U.K. and the E.U. and vaccination rates more apparent than on the island of Ireland.

In post+-Brexit Northern Ireland, no longer a path of the European Union, more than a third have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

For the still an E.U. member state of the Republic of Ireland, just 12 percent have received at least one vaccine injection.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): 101 years old, Naomi Gatlin (ph) gets her second vaccine shot. (on camera): How do you feel now you've had your second shot?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Her doctor, Dr. Frances O'Hagan (ph) is on a roll.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to give you a vaccine. That's it. You're all done.

ROBERTSON: Putting shots in arms at a Northern Ireland clinic in (INAUDIBLE) just as fast as she can, all her over 60s done.

DR. FRANCES O'HAGAN, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: It feels fantastic, at every clinic there's a real feel good atmosphere.

ROBERTSON: At a nearby sports center the same buzz. Dozens of health officials delivering 1,200 shots a day.

(on camera): So far across Northern Ireland, more than one-third of the population have had their first shot of vaccine. Rollout according to the government is going well.

South of the border in the Republic of Ireland it's an entirely different story.

(voice-over): Just across the Irish border in Moynihan, government vaccine supplies are stalling. Local doctor, Illona Duffy (ph) has no shots for the next few days.

DR. ILLONA DUFFY, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: The real issue is that we are a large practice, we have over 1,500 patients over the age of 70. And to date, we've only been able to vaccinate about 210 of those patients.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In Moynihan, people eye the other side of the border with vaccine envy. Unlike the U.K., Ireland relied on the E.U. for vaccines and are way behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bit frustrating for people here like you know what I mean?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): In his bar, Raymond Aughey is counting the cost of being shuttered through COVID restrictions for almost a year. A slow vaccine rollout in the south is adding to his woes, business lost to Northern Ireland.

RAYMOND AUGHEY, OWNER, THE SQUEALING PIG: They will probably be open so much faster, when they open, the young people are just going to flock across to the border.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): On the border roads, Irish police run occasional COVID checkpoints, preventing nonessential journeys. They began when rocketing infections in the north spilled over, spiking outbreaks in Ireland.

(on camera): In the first month of all cross border operation, police here have handed out more than 140 fines to drivers coming from Northern Ireland. However, there is no reciprocal system.

On the other side of the border, both sides of the border, the uneven COVID response is worrying politicians.

BRENDAN SMITH, CHAIRMAN, FIANNA FAIR PARLIAMENTARY PARTY: Pandemics don't recognize borders. We are a very small community a small island on the northwestern periphery of Europe. We need to work together to deal with health issues.

ROBIN SWANN, NORTHERN IRELAND HEALTH MINISTER: If we do the natural cross border movements then we actually see a higher degree of people who aren't vaccinated actually starting to come into Northern Ireland and mix with our people. And that's going to be a big concern.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Paradoxically, Northern Ireland's vaccine success offers hope south of the border.

DR. DUFFY: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now that the rates in the north are so low, so now that we know that that would probably continue because there will be less community transmission, because so many people are vaccinated.

I think we are going to find that our rates will reflect that.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Both sides of the border, hoping for leveling up fast.

Nic Robertson, CNN -- along the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border.


VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, saving species in Brazil by planting express highways for wildlife.


VAUSE: Call to Earth is CNN's initiative to promote a more sustainable future. Today's report is about the Atlantic forest in Brazil's, one of the world's most ecologically diverse region. But decades of its destruction mean that only fragments are now remaining.

Rolex Awards Laureate Laury Cullen has a plan to bring it back.


LAURY CULLEN, PROJECT AND RESEARCH COORDINATOR, ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL: What I really love about being in the forest is seeing the size of the change we can really make. Is it really possible to bring out the forest back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lauri Cullen has dedicated his life to restoring the Atlantic forest in Brazil after witnessing the destruction of his birthplace.


CULLEN: The Western Sao Paulo Atlantic forest range used to be a very, you know, green, continuous, beautiful landscape.

What used to be 100 percent of forest cover now is only 2 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Decades of deforestation have lead to a significant reduction of one of the world's most diverse habitats. All that remains of the forest are isolated fragments. This means many species are now under threat as they no longer have the ability to disperse.

CULLEN: The wildlife, especially, you know, jaguar, pumas, ocelots -- they're very isolated in the small forest patches. They cannot see each other. That's when we start having problems of inbreeding depression that can kill the local populations in a very short time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cullen and his team use a targeted approach to forest restoration, taking what's left of the fragments and planting in corridors. These proposed corridors aim to connect the fragments and act almost like an express highway for local species.

CULLEN: The dream map is putting priorities on where the forest should really be. To make sure we put the right corridors in the right places.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To date, Cullen and his team have restored 3,000 hectares of forest. And tell us they have already seen at least half of native species using them, including some animals at most risk of extinction.

CULLEN: Today, it is already possible to see the Lion families, the families of, you know, monkeys by themselves using some of the forest corridors that we have put back.

If we just keep on going, the survival of these very endangered species will be ok in the long term.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cullen is motivated by both the community and climate benefits to reforestation. But his accomplishments represent a transformation that this is much personal as it is philanthropic.

CULLEN: I used to be a hunter. You know, my father used to take me hunting in the Amazon. So that is how I got in contact with forest killing a lot of endangered species.

But now I'm doing my part to put our forest back, trying to redeem all the bad reputation that I had in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cullen's efforts benefit not only the landscape but also the communities living on it.

CULLEN: People are really part of the restoration equation. Every restoration that we do is done by the local people. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cullen and his team have set themselves the

ambitious target of bringing back corridors to cover 60,000 hectares of land, equating to 20 percent of the whole region.

CULLEN: We have a vision, we have a mission, we have a map and that's it. We are not going to give up. We have a lot to do.


VAUSE: We will continue to bring inspirational stories like that one as part of the initiative here at CNN. Let us know what you are doing to answer the call with the +ACM-Call to Earth.

Back in a moment.



VAUSE: Nike is now finding out the cost of raising concerns about human rights abuses in China, in particular forced labor in Xinjiang.

The company is facing a major backlash on social media. A popular Chinese actor has reportedly ended a lucrative representation deal as well.

And then there is Swedish retailer, H&M, also under fire for raising similar concerns.

Steven Jiang live in Beijing with details on this. And once those netizens get hold of something, they don't let go.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER: That is right, John. You know, this latest wave of huge backlash is against a major western brand is really showing no sign of abating.

You mentioned that celebrity cutting off his ties with Nike. We have seen other celebrities cutting off their ties with H&M earlier and H&M, of course was the first target in this latest drama.

And we've already seen state media and social media reports of at least one H&M store announcing its independent closure because of this.

And major Chinese e-commerce platforms removing all H&M products from its online stores. And also, telecoms companies removing H&M apps.

So, this is really growing and more brand names may be involved. Some brands have already responded, including this latest statement from Nike saying that we have been conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential forced labor risks related to employment of Uyghurs. Based on evolving information, we strengthen our audit protocols to identify emerging risks related to potential labor transfer programs.

But you know, this kind of statement is certainly not going to satisfy Chinese officials or state media or many Chinese consumers because it is exactly remarks like this that got H&M to get into trouble to begin with.

But it is timing, the timing of all of this is far from coincidental because one of the first online posts, quote-unquote, exposing was from the Communist Youth League. That is the youth organization under the ruling communist party, John so, as you can tell they have been really frustrated and enraged by all these criticisms and allegations against their policies in Xinjiang.

And this is just their latest move to send a very clear message to the rest of the world, John.

VAUSE: Stop the human rights abuses and criticism stops, I guess.

Steven thank you. Steven Jiang in Beijing.

We have a programming note now. CNN will have an exclusive report on Uyghur parents desperate to be reunited with their children. Amnesty International says China' policies towards the Muslim minority has split up thousands of families. CNN's David Culver traveled to Xinjiang to look for the children who've been left behind. Here's a preview.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Followed by a convoy of suspected undercover Chinese police vehicles.

Their tail is still on us.

Blocking roads that lead to possible internment camps, keeping us from getting too close to so-called sensitive sites.

Is he your father?

CNN searching for the lost Uyghur children of Xinjiang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She definitely misses me, too.

CULVER: Thousands of families have now been ripped apart due to China's actions, we tracked down two of them.

Do you want to be with them? Do you miss them?


VAUSE: David's exclusive report, "THE LOST CHILDREN OF XINJIANG" replays a little over an hour from now. 3:00 in the afternoon in Hong Kong, 7:00 a.m. in London right here only on CNN.

U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken will wrap up his talks with NATO in the coming hours. On Wednesday the senior U.S. diplomat called for unity against China coercive behavior which he says threatens the allies security. And he warned of sanctions against companies working on a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We've got to broaden our capacity to address threats of the economic, technological and informational routes. And we can't just play defense, we have to take an affirmative approach.

We have seen how Beijing and Moscow are increasingly using access to critical resources, markets and technologies to pressure our allies and drive wedges between us.


VAUSE: Blinken also met with the European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen. He says the U.S. will work with its allies on a timeline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and bringing the conflict there to an end.

Blinken also said the west must engage with Russia but remain clear eyed. Those remarks likely struck a chord with officials in Bulgaria. Prosecutors there say a suspected spy ring engaged in espionage that was quote unparalleled since 1944.

Nina Dos Santos has our report.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR (voice-over): This is what's a spy ring allegedly looks like. A woman leaves the Russian embassy in Bulgaria's capital Sofia, with what prosecutors claim is a bag full of cash.

Later, an operative appears to swap it for different currencies. While another allegedly snaps classified documents on a specialty phone. Last week, Bulgaria arrested six of its own citizens in a sting the country is branding its most significant since the Second World War.

The incident has led to the expulsion of two Russian diplomats and this warning from the Bulgarian prime minister.

[ 01:54:58]

BOYKO BORSSOV, BULGARIAN PM (through translator): I again address the superiors to stop spying in Bulgaria. Friendship is friendship, we have always demonstrated it but Euro Atlantic partnerships cannot be jeopardized.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The woman filmed by undercover cops is a dual Bulgarian and Russian national.

SIKA MILEVA, PROSECUTOR GENERAL SPOKESPERSON (through translator): She was trusted by the Russian diplomats accredited in Bulgaria. She was playing the role of a mediator between The Resident and the employee of the embassy of the Russian Federation as she was passing information and money. DOS SANTOS: Authorities say she is married to the group's suspected ringleader, a former head of military intelligence, code named The Resident.

Prosecutors say this is him, discussing cash for intelligence in this wiretap. Among the evidence put forward, this memo supposedly soliciting details of E.U. policy towards Russia, Belarus and Ukraine as well as U.S. activities in Bulgaria and a new NATO coordination center on the Black Sea coast.

The alleged agents also took screenshots of sensitive files, including this one mentioning American F-16 fighter jets that Bulgaria recently began using.

IVAN GESHEV, PROSECUTOR GENERAL (through translator): We do not hate any foreign country but we must protect Bulgaria. We were protecting our national interest. We should not sell it for money.

DOS SANTOS: Russia responded, saying it is being demonized. While the U.K., the U.S. and neighboring North Macedonia all lent their support to the criminal investigation.

BETWEEN 2019 and 2020, five Russian diplomats were expelled by Sofia for purported espionage, giving Bulgaria, now a NATO member with historical ties to Russia, a reputation as a soft target, says this author, who has penned several books on spying.

DOS SANTOS (on camera): Why Bulgaria?

EDWARD LUCAS, AUTHOR: Espionage is like globalization, it doesn't really matter what national borders are. The question is, what can you buy, what can you sell?

I think Bulgaria may have realized that it was object of a mixture of mistrust and mockery from some of the other NATO countries because of the close ties to Russia based in terms of organized crime, espionage, business, energy, and other things. I think they're trying to turn from the (INAUDIBLE).

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Either way, Bulgaria's actions come at a sensitive time, just as the Biden administration attends its first NATO summit, and weeks before, the country's general elections.

Nina Dos Santos, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching. I'm John Vause.

My friend and colleague Rosemary Church takes over after a quick break.