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Dozens Killed And Missing After Militants Besiege City; Chile's New Coronavirus Wave; Greater Brisbane Will Enter Three-Day Lockdown; Massive Ship Dislodged from Suez Canal; Rising COVID Infections in the U.S.; Deadliest Day in the Crisis in Myanmar; Mozambique Terror Attack. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 29, 2021 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

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ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to all of our viewers joining us here in the United States and from all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow live from Atlanta. I do want to begin this hour with some welcome news out of Suez in Egypt.

Crews have been trying to refloat that massive cargo ship called "Ever Given" that's been blocking the Suez Canal for a week now, and it looks like they have had some success at least. We're waiting on official words from the Suez Canal Authority about what exactly has been accomplished.

But CNN just obtained this video that appears to show the stern of the ship away from the Suez Canal bank. The vessel of course got stuck a week ago and has been blocking the waterway ever since.

Well, Ben Wedeman is there in Cairo. He's been closely following all of this. Anna Stewart is covering economic impact from London. Ben, hi. I want to go to you first. I mean, what do you make of this pretty good news, at least the good signals and messaging that we're getting out of the region?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INETRNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does seem that on the seventh day there is movement. We just heard Osama Rabie, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority saying that the ship has been shifted. He says 80 percent, it appears, that the stern has been moved away from the western bank of the Suez Canal.

Clearly, the waterway is not free yet, but this is significant progress. It happened in the very early hours of the morning before sunrise and he did say that they are hoping to, actually, float and completely free the ship.

At around 11:30 is when high tide occurs. That's about three and a half hours from now. And they are hoping that when that happens, they'll be able to move the "Ever Given" up to the Great Bitter Lake, which is about 30 kilometers to the north of there. He did say that perhaps navigation will be able to resume by noon

today. That's difficult to really be confident about. But by and large, the news we are getting, the pictures we are getting on social media, are all pointing in the direction of the resolution of this week long crisis.

Clearly, there is work to be done. Probably, there needs to be dredging in the canal in the area where the "Ever Given" was stuck. The ship itself, there are questions about its sea worthiness at this point. But certainly, it seems that Egypt has gotten over the worst of it at this point. Robyn?

CURNOW: And as we look at these images, certainly, good news not just for folks there in Egypt and trying to get through the Suez Canal, but also for global maritime traffic. Give us a sense of the sheer scale of the salvage operation. I think 10 tugboats, a number of other various attempts to be made to just try and shift this.

WEDEMAN: Yes. This has been, since the beginning of this crisis, early Tuesday morning, an around the clock effort by the Egyptian authorities to resolve this problem. Keep in mind that it brings in the Suez Canal about $5.6 billion dollars at least in 2020 to Egypt. But more importantly, it's the prestige. It's the reputation of a nation that was at stake.

And much lightheartedness has been made about those pictures, of a single backhoe trying to dredge around the front of the ship. But the fact of the matter is, on the other side of the ship, there are a variety of tugboats trying to nudge the ship free.

So, yes, this has been a huge effort by the Egyptian authorities, helped by Dutch and Japanese experts as well. And, you know, really, Egypt has been holding its breath, waiting for this to be resolved. This is, as I said, important economically, politically, symbolically, and strategically. Robyn?

CURNOW: And some good news for a Monday morning. Ben Wedeman, we'll come back to you with any of the latest developments. Thanks for that.

[02:05:03]

But Anna, I do want to come over to you in London. I know Ben mentioned the economic impact of this has certainly been felt around the globe. We will still continue to possibly feel it around the globe in the coming weeks.

This is a maritime global choke point, the best of times. Good news, no doubt for many people who have supplies trying to get them across the world.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: I mean, when you clog up one of the biggest arteries of trade for the world, 12 percent of global trade goes through that canal. You can only imagine how that reverberates all around the world. And we are talking oil and gas as you would expect in that region and there have been some fair sort of shortages already that we've seen. But also you've to look broader. You know, just the raw material producers that make coffee. You can't get it from Africa or Asia through to Europe, to the shot makers, Ikea furniture, livestock, you name it. Over 300 ships have been queuing up on either side of the "Ever Given" on either side of the canal, stuck.

Some have looked to reroute. It can take up to 15 days to go around via South Africa. That is costly. This is costing businesses and we're talking all sorts of businesses all over the world, real money. Now, this news that perhaps the ship will be on its way, perhaps it has had its successful floating, is good news.

And we're seeing that already, Robyn, reflected for instance in oil futures. I can tell you that Brent Crude is currently down 2 percent, WTI down 2.4 percent. Perhaps you'll start to see that for some of the other commodities.

There have been concerns about coffee, you know, European coffee from Africa or Asia goes through this canal. The effects have been widespread. It will take time, of course, even if that ship gets on its way. It will take time to get all the ships to where they should be and all the products where they need to get to.

CURNOW: Anna Stewart, good to see you. Thanks so much for that update there.

So joining me now live from San Francisco is Captain Jim Staples of OceanRiver Maritime Consultants. Captain Jim, good to see you. What do you make of these news? We're getting images of dawn breaking over the Suez Canal, and its good news, isn't it?

JIM STAPLES, OCEANRIVER LLC MARITIME CONSULTANTS: Absolutely. This is great news. The ship could have been stuck for weeks, months, who knows, depending on what kind of equipment they could have got there. But luckily, with this high tide, they were able to float the vessel with the extra tug boats, and at least the stern free, which means you still have access to the rudder and the propeller. So, they may be able to use ships (inaudible) who also helped get this vessel get her bow off the ground, and get her totally floating and again, on her way.

CURNOW: So she's essentially been re-floated, but still stuck. Is that pretty much the status? And what does that also mean about then the condition of this vessel?

STAPLES: Yes. What they say, she's about 80 percent of the vessel is floating free and that's probably to the bridge area to the stern is floating free, but the bow still sounds like it's stuck in the debris that is near.

And I understand there maybe some hard-packed rock in that area. So, they're probably being very careful trying to remove the rock or sand, whichever is holding up that bow so they don't do any damage to the vessel at the time.

So, they're probably being very careful at that before they even try to use the ships engines to back her away, until they actually know what's under the ship. So, they're probably being, like I said, real careful. They don't want to cause any more damage, if any damage has been caused so far.

So, they'll just -- extremely a great moment now that the vessel is floating and the stern is not stuck. So that's a big change in the situation.

CURNOW: How quickly do you think traffic can start moving again?

STAPLES: Well, probably immediately. They'll get her out to a deeper anchorage or maybe alongside a dock somewhere where they can actually go to the vessel and do some type of surveys either on the water surveys, interior surveys, and check for any kind of damage that may have been to the vessel.

So, I think it's just a matter of time before they get that vessel completely free and floating and traffic will resume right back up, in a one-way direction at first and then eventually they'll be able to get their two-way traffic going when everything is clear.

CURNOW: Okay. So log jam is going to take a while like any traffic jam. So the big questions now will certainly reflect on how this actually happened. There's been a lot of cold water thrown in the fact that this was about a sandstorm and the heavy winds that really this probably is either technical or human error. What do you think?

STAPLES: Well, from what we can see, we definitely know there is a steering problem with the ship that something happened that caused the vessel to deviate and go into the bank. Whether it was excessive speed that they had on the ship that caused some bank cushion and bank suction, or a mechanical failure within the steering gear system.

[02:09:59]

So, it could be multiple problems. It could be human error, but it could be -- and any experienced (inaudible), there's just a lot of different things you have to look at. But one of the investigative tools that they have on board is what they call a VDR, a vessel data recorder, which will record all of the voices that were being spoken at the time when it happened.

So, that will give us a good idea. It also takes a look at all the instrumentation in the engine staff that -- where the engine is, the speed of the vessel, and any kind of data that they could use to put together what happened in this accident.

CURNOW: And quickly, Captain Jim, just before we go, do you think that this ship is just too big? It's huge. The size of the Empire State Building if it was to be flipped up this way. Should -- is the Suez Canal capable of handling this kind of container ship?

STAPLES: Well, obviously, there was an accident. They've had accidents before where ships going around. Things do happen, but one of the ways that they can alleviate this problem is to use we call escort tugboats, to put a tug on the stern that's tethered to the vessel in case the ship does lose power or she loses her steerage, that the tugboat will be able to help her get alongside the canal and then anchor up so that they don't obstruct any type of traffic.

So, I don't think they're too big. They had definitely large vessels and they need to have critical care when you're handling these ships, and they have to be trained. And what we do is we do a lot of training in simulation in simulators.

We did that all though here in the United States where we used an institute called MITAGS and we used pilots that actually came on board the simulator and took these vessels in just about every port that they would be coming to the United States.

From the West Coast, from San Francisco, all the way to the East Coast in New York and Virginia, into those ports down there. All the way down to the southern tip of Florida. So, you know, it can be done. It is being done. You just have to do it with the proper equipment. And I think if they used escort tugs in this situation that would definitely help the situation. So, a procedural change for the Suez Canal.

CURNOW: Okay. A bit of advice. Thank you. Captain Jim Staples, great to speak to you of OceanRiver Maritime Consultants. Thanks for your expertise.

STAPLES: My pleasure. Thank you.

CURNOW (on camera): With COVID cases once again rising in the U.S., experts are urging people to continue following the guidelines and avoid travel as the weather starts to warm up. They say safety measures are the key to preventing another devastating wave.

Now, some states, however, are already seeing signs of a new surge including Michigan where the infection rate rose by more than 50 percent this week. Experts say the surge is being fueled by a number of factors including new variants, more movement, and the easing of restrictions.

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ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you are coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau, once you stay at that plateau, you really endanger of a surge coming up. And unfortunately, that's what we're starting to see.

We got stuck at around 50,000 new cases per day, went up to 60,000 the other day, and that's really a risk. We've seen that in our own country, and that's exactly what's happened in Europe, in several of the countries in the European Union where they plateaued and then started to come back.

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CURNOW (on camera): Meantime, we are learning that the Biden administration is developing a system for people to prove they have been vaccinated. It comes as more Americans are really itching to return to normality as Evan McMorris-Santoro now reports. Evan?

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ROCHELLE WALENSKY, U.S. CDC DIRECTOR: Please, take this moment very seriously.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Top officials warning Americans to keep focused on the pandemic, despite the pulls of warmer weather and encouraging vaccine news. Reservations on home rental sites Vrbo and Airbnb are skyrocketing according to those companies. Seeing a desire among Americans to get out of the house, but travel and gathering for holidays like Easter and Passover are not a good idea, experts say.

FAUCI: Whenever we see surges in travel, be that around the holidays or around certain situations like we did over the Christmas and New Year's holiday and other types of holidays, you get a congregation of people. Those are the kinds of things that invariably increase the risk of being affected.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Cases are starting to rise again in some states, including Michigan. The Department of Health tells CNN they are now experiencing a third coronavirus surge. While more than a quarter of Americans have received their first dose of a vaccine, only around 15 percent are fully vaccinated.

But most states continue to expand eligibility guidelines. Louisiana, among the states expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults over age 16 on Monday. Still, this moment has all the ingredients for a new national surge, experts say. But Americans can prevent it.

[02:15:00]

WALENSKY: I know people are tired and we're just asking people to hang on a little while longer in terms of the mask and the mitigation, that strategy so that we can get the majority of people vaccinated.

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MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): In Michigan, officials are making the vaccine available to every resident of the state over the age of 16 starting on April 5th. And they're urging people to get their appointments for that vaccine now because they say, getting the vaccine as quickly as possible, is the best way to slow this new surge and it could be the best way to prevent the entire country from having a surge of its own. Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.

CURNOW: Thanks Evan for that. So, coming up here at CNN, Myanmar's military is accused of killing an astounding number of children as it cracks down on dissent. We have that story, that update, next.

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CURNOW: It is 90 minutes past the hour. We're hearing reports that Myanmar's military has fired more airstrikes into a region-controlled by the ethnic Karen minorities. Now, the armed Karen National Union says that it happened near the Thai border on Sunday. Reuters reported that around 3,000 villagers fled to Thailand on Sunday to escape the first round of airstrikes.

[02:24:58]

All of this comes after the bloodiest weekend of military violence we've seen since the coup last month. Security forces reportedly killed at least 114 people on Saturday including several children. Activists call it a day of shame.

Simon Adams is the executive director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect and joins me now from New York. Simon, hi. Great to have you on the show. Thanks so much for joining us. Just, we've been watching these sort of thousands of people trying to leave now in addition to this escalating violence. What does that tell you about the situation inside Myanmar?

SIMON ADAMS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GLOBAL CENTRE FOR THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT: Well, first of all, thanks for having me on, Robyn. And yes, I mean, this was the bloodiest weekend that we've had yet in Myanmar. On Friday, you know, you had the military openly threatening on national TV that they were going to shoot people at protests. Nevertheless, on the weekend, some of the largest protests we've seen in more than 40 cities in towns across Myanmar.

The military responded by shooting dead 114 people including four children. But I think what we should take away from this is the depth of popular opposition to military rule even though the military keeps killing people day after day. And I think, internationally, pressure is building on the regime as well with, you know, criticism today from the U.N. high commissioner, from human rights, and from other people around the world. So, I'm not surprised if people are fleeing, but I think now is the time the international community needs to increase the pressure.

CURNOW: There has been criticism that much of this is being sort of hollow criticism, and that really it's not doing anything and certainly falling on deaf ears. The junta doesn't appear to be listening to these concerns about the security situation. When we talk about the international community, is it more about what China does next or Russia even?

ADAMNS: Right. I mean, I've said the whole way through that statements of concern are not going to cut it in this situation.

CURNOW: No.

ADAMS: This is a very serious military regime. It's basically waging a war against its own people and it's going to take more than eloquent press statements to really turn that situation around. And I think, you know, the things that are kind of missing at the moment are what is ASEAN, the major regional organization doing. It could do a lot more.

What does India doing, a country that borders across Myanmar as a regional superpower? And you mentioned the other big question mark in this situation, which is the Chinese. Up until this point, you know, the Chinese have been the main guarantor of the generals in Myanmar, protecting them at the U.N. Security Council and so forth.

But I think they have a unique opportunity to kind of play potentially a positive role in trying to get the military to step back from the current situation because even from the kind of Chinese point of view, none of this is good for business, none of this adds up to peace and prosperity in their borders.

CURNOW: When we look at the momentum, the desperate violent momentum we've seen over this weekend, how concerned are you about ethnic militias now potentially getting involved, helping protesters? Does that increase the opportunities for this to become more violent, and also then conversely giving the military a reason to point fingers and come down harder?

ADAMS: Well, I don't think the military need any excuses to do that. I mean, you know, they of course, committed a genocide against the Rohingya population just a few years ago. They didn't like the results of last year's elections so they've just decided to, you know, shoot down people in the streets and to take back power themselves.

But certainly I'm not surprised that in some of these outlying regions where we've seen years, decades of ethnic conflict, it's not surprising that some of these groups have said, well, all bets are off. We were negotiating for a better future with a civilian-led government. Now that it's back to just straight-up military rule, there is no restraint on us fighting to defend our people.

CURNOW: How terrifying must it be and it's difficult getting ordinary people to talk because of the fear and because of the access and the comms there, but children are being shot in their homes, people are being razed, ordinary people. These aren't professional protesters. There is a depth to these protests movement across ages, across classes, across professions that is quite impressive, isn't it?

ADAMS: It's extraordinary and it's incredibly inspiring. You know, when you see the very inventive ways that people are continuing to defy the military, the way in which people are joining up with one another, things that were unimaginable a few years ago like mainstream mass kind of support for the Rohingya, who people ignored even just a couple of years ago.

All of that is happening and people are still communicating with the outside world. I got to tell you, Robyn, every day, I wake up, I get e-mails, I get text messages, I get contacted in other sorts of ways by people inside Myanmar who are desperate, who are terrified, but who are still going out into the streets every day to protest against this military regime.

[02:25:00]

CURNOW: Simon Adams, thank you.

ADAMS: Thank you. CURNOW: You're watching CNN. Still to come, desperate escape attempts

in Mozambique as people scramble to get away from a day's long's attack. We'll bring you the latest, what we know. That's next.

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CURNOW: Celebrations are underway on the Suez Canal. You can hear it there. You can see it. Authorities have just confirmed that massive ship that's been blocking the waterway for a week now has been mostly dislodged.

Officials say, they hope to fully refloat the vessel within the next few hours. These are dawn images, out of the Suez. For now, they'll keep the freed stern of the ship away from the bank while they work to pull the bow out.

This, of course, is welcome news globally. Hundreds of other ships, carrying billions of dollars' worth of cargo have been stalled for days now because the canal has been blocked.

And then we're also getting a better sense of the carnage of the day's long terror attack in Mozambique. The military spokesman says dozens of people are dead and dozens more are missing after Islamist militants attacked the city of Palma. The fatalities reported include locals and foreigners working in the region.

(VIDEO PLAYING)

Now, Mozambique's military says they're still trying to secure the city. The terror group which is believed to be affiliated with ISIS, attacked Palma on Wednesday. Witnesses say many people died trying to evacuate including one South African man, Adrian Nel. His mother says he was shot while trying to escape by car with his father and his younger brother.

[02:29:59]

Dino Mahtani is an international crisis group's deputy director for Africa. He joins me now from Nairobi. Dino, hi. Good to see you. I do want to ask you about casualty figures. It's still unclear the scale of this but we certainly have an idea that it is bigger than originally thought.

DINO MAHTANI, DEPUTY PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR AFRICA, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: I mean I think security forces in the government say dozens have been killed there. Dozens also foreign workers that are there to - to be killed, 10s of 1000s have fled - civilians have fled the city and hundreds possibly more have also been evacuated by boat from port - from the seaboard down to the regional capital, the provincial capital Pemba.

CURNOW: There have been certainly reports by many survivors that have come out that they felt they were abandoned, that there was no backup, no security. Mozambican security forces, the South Africans, nobody came to their rescue. MAHTANI: Yes, I mean this is a very remote corner of the country. It's

a faraway province started - 10,000 kilometres even from the capital Maputo all the way in the south and it's also you know a wild and unforgiving territory in the hinterland.

As far as the security services were concerned Mozambique security forces are you know by and large semi disrepair or serious under investment after decades following a peace deal where for their previous civil war that ended in the 90s which led to the pretty much dismantling of large sections of the security forces and then you put that together with (inaudible) and that is sort of snowballed.

It has very sophisticated intelligence capabilities that has been able to mount surprise attacks on security forces ever since this started in 2017 and this is where we are today.

CURNOW: Yes what does this tell you about the capabilities of this group and also how helpful is it that they're being equated with ISIS?

MAHATANI: OK, well this starts - when it first started in 2017, you had small groups of attackers hitting remote security posts, villages and in fact this insurgency was born (inaudible) grievances where local youth were getting aggressive with religious leaders and village elders as far back as -. Now in 2017 you have the first attacks that take place but they're using blunt weapons, they're using the occasional firearm and now three and a half years later you have you know multi-pronged attacks with sophisticated weaponry, mostly taken from these Mozambican security forces.

Vehicles - you know they're brandishing the flag of - the black flag of jihad but to answer your question - there are - there is a transnational and internationalist element of this where foreign fighters, - individuals are trying to plug into this thing but where this thing has come from is actually a grassroots insurgency of sorts that really is drawing on two particular ethnic groups in Cabo Delgado.

And in particular a strata of frustrated youth who from the coast to the hinterland come from occupations such as petty traders, small time smugglers on the coast but also you know impoverished fishermen and former farm boys, grouping together under this banner that is energizing them and giving them the confidence to go for the security forces and to also appeal perhaps outside internationals help from the likes of ISIS.

Whether it's being driven by ISIS, that's a completely different matter.

CURNOW: But either way certainly many lives lost, huge damage done to all those economic interests there in that region. Dino Mahtani, I'm going to have to leave it at that. Your sound has been popping in and out there live from Nairobi, thank you for that update. So ahead on CNN, Chile was successfully vaccinating its population against the coronavirus so why are cases spiking there. We'll talk about that next.

[02:35:00]

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CURNOW: In Australia, the Greater Brisbane area of Queensland will soon begin a three day lockdown after 10 new COVID cases there. Four of them were locally transmitted. The state premier says she's very concerned because the highly transmissible UK variant was detected among these new cases.

Meantime in the UK the situation appears to be stabilizing enough. England to ease more restrictions from Monday up to six people will be allowed to meet outside while outdoor team sports can resume for all ages but it's a totally different story in France where intensive care units are getting overwhelmed with COVID patients there.

Doctors in Paris they the crisis is so bad they'll soon have to decide who gets access to the ICU and who does not. They say the growing outbreak is alarming and current measures aren't enough to slow the spread.

And Chile has one of the world's highest coronavirus vaccination rates and yet they're still facing a second wave of infections and more lockdowns. It's actually gotten so bad, Chile's president says he's going to ask congress to postpone elections from April to May. Here's Rafael Romo with that.

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RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Light traffic on the streets. Nearly deserted sidewalks and bus stops and empty parks. Around 16 million people including Santiago de chile and Capitol are under a full lockdown that started over the weekend after record numbers of new coronavirus cases.

For the love of Chile, President Pinera pleaded with his fellow citizens let's old maximize personal precautions and follow health guidelines. The daily number of new COVID-19 cases reached 7,626 Friday, a record since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the country of roughly 19 million the total number of cases is now approaching a million and breaker bodies. Enrique Paris, the Chilean Health Minister is worried. He says intensive care units around the country are at 95 percent capacity and the new spike in cases is bound to strain the national health system even more.

Everything is not bad news for Chile. Well over 6 million people or roughly a third of its population have received at least one dose. The South American country has the third highest vaccination rates in the world after Israel and the United Arab Emirates is the head of countries like the UK and the U.S.

Roza Nampa, a nurse who's top by one of the many vaccination centers opened around the country to get her shot says the problem is that many people simply lowered their guards.

[02:40:00] People have been irresponsible, she said. We thought that after getting the first dose, we would all be immune. And that's simply not the case. The Chilean health ministry is asking people to contact Police to report parties or other gatherings that are now technically illegal.

For now, Santiago's metropolitan area will remain on lockdown indefinitely. Chileans are supposed to go to the polls on April 11 to choose members for an assembly that will be tasked with writing a new constitution. For the first time over the weekend, the President Pinera said the government will be paying close attention to the health emergency and didn't rule out the possibility of postponing the process if the situation doesn't improve. Rafael Romo, CNN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Thanks to Rafael for that. So thanks for watching. I'm Robyn Curnow. For all of our international viewers, World Sport is next. For everyone else, I'll be right back.

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[02:45:00]

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CURNOW: Thanks for joining me, it's 45 minutes past the hour. U.S. President Joe Biden is under pressure to address two key issues during his administration. Gun control in the wake of the two recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado, and the migrant crisis at the country's southern border.

The President, though is hoping to focus more closely on his economic vision for the future. Here's John Harwood with more on all of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The challenge for the White House this week is to maintain focus on what President Biden considers his most important priority. Now from the right Republicans are pressuring the White House to stem the flow of migrants across the Mexican border that is left so many children being housed in Border Patrol facilities that are inappropriate for kids.

From the left, Democrats are pressuring the administration to do something about gun control. Now, the administration does not want to focus on the border situation because there's no quick fix even as they scramble for more health and human services facilities that are more appropriate for children.

They don't want to focus on gun control because they know right now, that Democrats do not have the votes to pass either an assault weapons ban or background checks. The White House is working on both fronts, but they don't have an expectation of success anytime soon. What the President wants to focus on is this massive infrastructure and human capital development plan that is his second priority after passing that big COVID Relief Bill.

That's something the administration considers both important and bold and also achievable. President will begin outlining that program called Build Back Better in Pittsburgh in a speech on Wednesday. John Harwood, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Thanks, John for that. So Democratic lawmakers are slamming Georgia's controversial new voting law. They say it's now imperative to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act that seeks to protect all Americans' right to vote. The Republican backed Georgia law overhauls the state's elections in a way that voting rights groups say will disenfranchise minorities.

President Joe Biden calls it a blatant attack on the Constitution but Republicans don't agree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WALTZ, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: If everything is fine, why are the Democrats cramming this and I can tell you what's going on in Georgia is about politics. They're gaslighting these changes. They're gaslighting, these improvements and fear mongering, calling them racist, calling them Jim Crow, so that they can then justify getting rid of the filibuster, and then cram through H.R. 1.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Now, one of Georgia's two Democratic senators says it is important to act now take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAPHAEL WARNOCK, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: I'm going to do everything I can to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For The People Act so that we can expand our democracy rather than contract it. The governor is taking us back, we intend to go forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Warnock also calls it a defining moment in the American nation, and opening statements will begin in the coming hours in the end the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Police officer charged with killing George Floyd a black man in Minnesota. On Sunday, Floyd supporters held a large rally in his honor and demanded justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: This is George city because when you think of George, you think of Minnesota. This is where he was killed by four officers who used barbaric tactics to put him down. They say he died of asphyxiation, but in the black community, that's the equivalent to dying of being choked to death.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW: Floyd's death sparked dozens of protests last year and set of

intense debates on social justice and police accountability. Omar Jimenez reports now those issues will likely be addressed again in the upcoming trial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The eyes of a movement, one that sparked protests worldwide in the name of George Floyd shift to a courtroom in Minneapolis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything else for the record?

JIMENEZ: Now to opening statements in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer has pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces. Second degree unintentional murder, second degree manslaughter and third degree murder in the death of George Floyd.

Outside the courtroom, emotions will be running high. There have already been multiple protests throughout the city.

MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE CHIEF: They've done so peacefully and they've assembled and gathered peacefully. We will continue to expect more demonstrations.

JIMENEZ: But the destruction that happened in May 2020 in the aftermath of Floyd's death is still fresh on the minds of city officials. And it's why the building that houses the courtroom has virtually become a fortress due to increased security measures, with the mayor saying there's more to come.

JACOB FREY, MINNEAPOLIS MINNESOTA MAYOR: Residents should be expecting a gradual increase in law enforcement and National Guard presence as we progress through the trial.

[02:50:00]

JIMENEZ: The first step in this trial--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does that make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm OK with that.

JIMENEZ: - was getting through jury selection which lasted exactly two weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will serve on a jury.

JIMENEZ: Resulting in 15 jurors, 14 of which will be a part of the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This 15 juror was to make sure that we can have 14 people show up on Monday.

JIMENEZ: Their identities remain unknown for now. Attorneys for the Floyd family are pleased the trial can now proceed and wrote, "This is not a hard case. George Floyd had more witnesses to his death than any other person ever." And it will be witnesses who now come to the stand called by both prosecutors for the state and defense attorneys for Derek Chauvin.

Among what we know will be talked about what, a portion of a 2019 George Floyd arrest for which he was never charged but one where he ended up being sent to the hospital instead of jail. An interaction with police, defense attorneys for Chauvin argued was similar to May 2020. A paramedic from that day in 2019 is also expected to testify.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole point to here is we have medical evidence on what happens when Mr. Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation. Confrontation by a police at gunpoint followed by a rapid ingestion of some drugs.

RICHARD FRASE, CRIMINAL LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Our system of justice is a bit on trial. Can we give Mr. Chauvin a fair trial because that's essential? Can we give the state a fair chance to find him guilty under the law and the evidence?

JIMENEZ: The trial is expected to last up to four weeks. All the while a city, a family, a movement watches anxiously over what criminal accountability looks like in the death of George Floyd. Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis Minnesota.

CURNOW: Four people are hospitalized in Virginia after a number of separate shootings, Friday night in Virginia beach. Overall eight people were wounded, two people died. One of the deadly shootings involved a police officer who according to the city police chief did not turn on his body camera even though he was wearing one.

And there's a State of Emergency in Nashville Tennessee after flash flooding killed at least four people over the weekend. Rescuer saved though at least 130 people from homes and vehicles. Some were clinging to trees or sheltering in their attics as the water rose.

A number of rivers and streams in the region overflowed leaving many roads virtually impossible - impassable as you can see here. Let's get the latest from Martin Savidge.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the most part of the floodwaters have receded but the destruction they leave behind is significant. This was not a citywide flood, flooding was pretty much limited to South Nashville but in the communities in areas where the flash flooding went, the destruction is amazing to see.

This apartment complex is just one example. Residents here say that early Sunday morning they heard the torrential rain, then they heard the alerts on their cell phones and then finally they heard the fire alarms going off of the buildings.

When they looked out to see what was burning they were stunned to realize their building had been completely surrounded by raging water and then they heard the screams of their neighbors from the bottom apartments here because the water first had trapped them and then the debris began shattering the windows and now they were being flooded.

Amazingly everyone got out alive but they won't soon forget that horrible - horrible night. Nashville's endured a lot in the last year, had a tornado that killed several people, then endured the pandemic and then on top of that it had a bombing in Christmas and now flooding that has left at least four people dead. Martin Savidge, CNN, Nashville.

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CURNOW: Thanks Martin. I want to take us straight to Pedram Javaheri. Pedram has the latest on all of this severe weather. Hi Pedram. Good to see you. I mean tell us more about the severe weather that we're seeing particularly across the south here.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been very active and you know a lot of times Robyn people deservedly so give a lot of attention to hurricanes, the amount of lives lost every single year to hurricanes or even tornadoes but people are surprised to learn that flooding actually takes more lives every single year on average in the U.S. than do those previous storms and hurricanes and tornadoes.

So really it's been an active pattern. We've seen it all across portions of the southern U.S. of course and when it comes to the heavy rainfall from about 6 PM, Saturday night through 7 PM, Sunday night, that's when the bulk of the tremendous volume of rainfall came down across the Tennessee valley.

Widespread coverage of two to four inches - four to six inches and a few areas around say Shelbyville, east of Nashville into Cookeville and work your way into Nashville and points just to the south. That is where a historic amount of six plus inches of rainfall came down and flood watches and flood warnings now widespread across this region as waters still left on the ground and concern is that additional rainfall is going to work its way across this region.

[02:55:00]

Officially two day rainfall total is exceeding seven inches which is now the highest the second highest two-day rainfall total on record there for the city of Nashville, setting a daily record as well and the most rainfall we've seen for the month of March in one particular event but notice not just Nashville, areas across this region picking up months' worth of rainfall in a matter of just 24 to 36 hours.

And initial phase of this forecast Robyn does show good news. Dry air back behind it, that'll give us a break come Monday afternoon into Tuesday afternoon and in fact when you look at the Cumberland river across portions of Nashville. Water level's just below what is considered flood stage and we expect it to stay there for a couple of days potentially improve.

Unfortunately the forecast here does bring in round two of rainfall and that comes in sometime late Tuesday night, into Wednesday morning. The heaviest rainfall does look through moving across portions of southern Tennessee, Chattanooga gets in on the heaviest rain but notice Nashville can pick up another one, maybe one and a half inches of rainfall on top of the seven inches that have already come down.

So that's the concern that we get another round of flooding before the water fully recedes. Now that's not the only weather story we're watching. In fact just about 20 plus U.S. states dealing with high wind alerts and we know this is a time of year where you have critical fire weather concerns in place.

Temperatures beginning to warm up. Humidity is dropping across portions of the plains, Robyn so we're following that as well for fire weather potentially in the next couple of days.

CURNOW: OK, thanks for that. Pedram Javaheri there and thank you for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. CNN Newsroom continues with Rosemary Church. Stay with us for that. You're watching CNN.

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