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CNN Reports from Myanmar amid Military Crackdown; New Zealand to Open Border with Australia; Ethical Concerns over Vaccine Passports; Navalny to Keep Up Hunger Strike; Prince Hamzah Pledges Allegiance to Jordanian King; North Korea Won't Participate in Tokyo Games. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired April 6, 2021 - 02:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, welcome to the viewers all around the world. I'm Paula Newton. Inside Myanmar, our exclusive, on the ground report on the bloody coup and military crackdown that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Letter of loyalty: Jordan's former crown prince pledges allegiance to the king.

Is it a sign that the royal rift is easing?

Plus, sitting out the Summer Games. North Korea says it won't compete, while Tokyo vows the Olympic Games will go on.


NEWTON: We begin with the CNN exclusive. Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward went into Myanmar as the crackdown on protesters.

CNN was the first international independent news organization allowed inside the country and an advocacy group says at least 550 people have been killed since the February 1st coup that removed the democratically elected government.

Clarissa Ward spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper about what she's seen and we have to tell, you, Clarissa and her crew are reporting with the permission of Myanmar's military. You have to keep in mind that they were escorting them wherever they went.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to underscore that no independent international journalists have been allowed into this country in the last two months since that bloody coup took place, as you said, rights group saying more than 550 people killed. This is a massive protest movement that really came about after the

military ousted Myanmar's democratically elected government, the people coming out to the -- into the streets in the millions. And the more they protested, and the more animated those protests became, the more the military tried to suppress them.

The military here really does not have the popular support of the people of Myanmar.

So, we felt it was essential, even though it is a difficult situation when you are in a country with the permission of the -- in this case, the military, the main oppressors in this situation, we felt it was very important to be on the ground to see for ourselves whatever we could, and to tell the story of the people of Myanmar, Jake. And what has it been like to report their?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And what's it been like to report there? Have you had the freedom to report whatever you want to report?

WARD: So, we have had the freedom to report what we want to report. As you can tell right now, we're going live to you from here in Myanmar.

We are, though, very controlled in terms of how we can move around, who we can talk to.

I'm here in a military compound. We wanted to stay in a hotel. And we were told simply that that was not possible. Every single place we go to, we go with a huge amount of security. We have minders following our every move. They're constantly filming on their iPhones every conversation we have.

And those conversations, by the way, are really limited, because we haven't had a huge amount of access to ordinary people from Myanmar.

And I just want to give you a little bit of a sense, if I can get this clip up, of what it's like trying to report here. Take a look.


WARD: What's this poster here? We see "We support CRPH."


WARD: With the three-finger salute.


WARD: That's from people who are against the military. Is that saying that the people in this area are against the military?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe. Not sure, because some demonstrators go around Yangon and shout at -- demonstration.

WARD: Can we maybe talk to some of the people? Can we ask them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not sure, because of your security. I'm not sure, because I am just for interpretation. OK.

WARD: I'm wondering.

There's some people over there. Maybe we could go and talk to them.


So, the security forces told me we shouldn't stay for a long time here for our security.

For our security?


WARD: Gives you a sense of the intense level of security with us, one, two, three, another three over there, six trucks full of soldiers accompanying our every move.


WARD: And I talked there about that three-finger salute, the so- called "Hunger Games" salute.

This gesture has become the symbol really of resistance against the military coup.


WARD: And even when we were out on the streets, with all that military -- military people around us, with all those minders around us, people would come up at any available opportunity and flash that salute at our camera.

They want the world to know what they are going through. And they want more people out there telling their story, Jake.

TAPPER: Clarissa, why would the military let you in?

WARD: Well, the military has its side of the story, too. And up until now, they have been largely tight-lipped about what that is.

Essentially, what they want the world to know is that the protesters have become much more violent, the protesters are using Molotov cocktails, they're using slingshots, which, again, is no match for the assault rifles that the Myanmar military is using.

But, really, they're trying to cast the protest movement as a violent mob of anarchists that needs to be suppressed. They took us to a number of factories that had been burned down. They said that the protesters were responsible. The protesters say they were not responsible.

But that's very much the narrative that they're hoping will take shape, the idea that, somehow, it's the protesters who are to blame for all the violence here. But when you're looking at the actual makeup of what's happening during these standoffs and these protests that are quickly turning into massacres, you can see that one side clearly has a huge advantage in terms of its arms, of its level of weaponry and funding. And there's simply no match, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Clarissa, you sat down with a senior member of the military leadership there in Myanmar. No other journalist has been able to do that. What did you ask him?

WARD: Well, we had a lot of things to ask him. And it was a pretty up comfortable interview. We wanted to particularly drill down on the number of innocent civilians who have been killed. More than 550 protesters, pro-democracy protesters, most of them unarmed, among them 44 children, Jake. That's according to the United Nations.

So we really wanted to get some sense on how on earth the military could justify this. We want to him specifically at one point with a very specific piece of video that shows a young activist being killed in cold blood to give him a sense to explain how on earth such a brutal killing could possibly be justified. Take a look.


WARD: This is CCTV footage of a 17-year-old going past a police convoy. You can see the police shoot him on the spot. His autopsy later said that he suffered brain injury as a result of a cycling accident which I think we can all see that's not a cycling accident. How do you explain this?

MAJOR GENERAL ZAW MIN TUN (through translator): If that kind of thing occurred, we will have an investigation into it. We will investigate if the video is real or not. There may be some videos which look suspicion but our forces do not have any intention to shoot innocent people. We will investigate if it's real or not.


WARD: We also pushed him hard on what the game plan is here. How can this violence possibly end, this awful cycle of violence and when will the people get to have their voiced heard?

He said that the military's plan has always been to allow for another round of elections sometime in either the next year or possibly up to two years.

But it's really important to underscore here, Jake, that the whole reason that this coup took place in the first place is because there were free and fair elections back in November.

There were independent election monitors there who did not see any problems in terms of fraud or any significant problems and that election was won in a landslide by the NLD party, the military's party suffered a humiliating defeat and that's what precipitated this coup in the first place. So I think people are very unwilling to believe the idea that there will be another round of free and fair elections and that their candidate, their choice who is right now under arrest in prison, Aung San Suu Kyi, will be allowed to become president if she did indeed win again or frankly no one believes that she will be allowed to run again because she is facing these trumped-up charges, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Clarissa, tell us about the people who talked to you and then were subsequently arrested.

WARD: You know, Jake, this is always your worst nightmare as a journalist, right?

We were finally able to negotiate access to a public space, not a controversial space.


WARD: It was a space that the military actually picked.

But minute we got to this market and we were just shooting video of people going about their daily business, once they saw their cameras and they knew that CNN was in town and they had been writing a lot about it on social media, a lot of people came up to us. They flashed that three-finger "Hunger Games" salute that I told about.

They talked about wanting justice. They talked about wanting democracy. They talked about wanting freedom. More than that, so many talked about how frightened they are, Jake. Soldiers coming into their neighborhoods every single night dragging dead bodies away.

And what we found out was that shortly after this trip to the market at least eight people by CNN's count were arrested for the simple crime of just having spoken to us and said that they were afraid.

We pushed the general really hard on that. He admitted that 11 people in total were arrested. He said that they shouldn't have been arrested to give him credit and that they would be released and we can now confirm that they have indeed been released, which is a huge relief for us and also we're grateful to the military for releasing them.

TAPPER: And we should note, I mean, when people talk to you or they flash you the -- the "Hunger Games" salute, three-fingered "Hunger Games" salute that I'm holding up right now in solidarity with them, I should say. They are -- that's an act of civil disobedience at great risk.

What other acts or forms of civil disobedience have you witnessed?

WARD: Well, this is it, just it. The military is trying to control the country through brute force but what they can't do is make people work, for example, so there's a huge civil disobedience movement. Most of the country's workers are striking. They are not going to work, whether it's ministries, banks. You go by the banks here. There's long, long lines outside of every single paining. That means that the economy is grinding to a halt. There's garbage in the streets. It's very difficult for the military to kind of keep up with this charade that this is a functioning society now.

As long as people refuse to work, as long as you don't have the support of your own populace, let's be very clear here, we have seen absolutely no evidence that the military has any real popular support here in Myanmar and as long as that conditions, even if you are shooting at non-protests, even if you are killing children, it becomes very difficult and challenging to actually run a country, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes. Clarissa Ward in Myanmar for us, thank you so much. Really appreciate your courage.

WARD: Thank you.



NEWTON: A big announcement from a country with one of the lowest COVID case counts in the world. The New Zealand prime minister says quarantine-free travel with Australia will begin in less than 2 weeks.


JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: This is an important step forward in our COVID response. It's an arrangement I did not believe we have seen in any other part of the world. It is safely opening up international travel to another country, while continuing the administration to keeping the virus out.


NEWTON: Now keep in, mind most Australian states already allow New Zealanders to visit. Now on April 18th, New Zealand will follow suit. The so-called travel bubble will be a big boost for the struggling travel industry.

The two countries have, of course, managed the COVID crisis successfully and kept those all important case counts low after closing their international borders very early on in the pandemic.

Meantime, we go to England. It's getting ready to ease COVID restrictions next week starting April 12th. The country is moving to stage 2 of their roadmap when shops, gyms, hair dressers and outdoor hospitality areas are expected to reopen. The prime minister Boris Johnson is asking people to wait just a little longer before planning a summer holiday abroad.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I do not wish to give hostages to fortune or to underestimate the difficulties that we are seeing in some of the destination countries people might want to go to. We don't want to see the virus being reimported from abroad. There is

a surge in other parts of the world and we have to be mindful of that. We have to be realistic.


NEWTON: Mr. Johnson says nonessential international travel will not be permitted until May 17th at the earliest. Once it does restart, a traffic light system will go into effect. You see some of the colors there. Travelers from green countries will face no quarantine upon arriving in the U.K. Just a negative test result before actually traveling.

Countries on the amber list would require self isolation, while those, of course, on the red list would require a period of quarantine.


NEWTON: Dr. Scott Miscovich joins me now from Lake Tahoe, California. He's a family physician and a national consultant for coronavirus testing. He has pioneered the pop-up COVID testing in Hawaii.

You know, everyone wants to get going on this, Doctor, and we can all understand those feelings so even if Australia and New Zealand can make this work, it's a tentative step.

So how do we frame this in terms of when there could be a definitive return to international travel and what will it take?

DR. SCOTT MISCOVICH, FAMILY PHYSICIAN AND NATIONAL CONSULTANT: Well, one of the big things that everyone is talking about that has some controversy is the actual vaccine passport. So we have to hear a lot more discussion concerning that.

And you know, I do commend both countries for what they are doing because they are recognizing that there are certain countries that have low positivity rates. They are safer and so individuals have a much lower risk of bringing the disease in.

I think the quarantine possibility, that shuts an economy down. So from our perspective, from Hawaii, where we are, we do have international travelers come with a test 3 days prior to arrival. There are many different options. But I think vaccine is going to be the biggest issue we're going to look at going forward.

NEWTON: And I know that travel to Hawaii has been a lifeline and another places have been struggling with international tourists.

What will it take to get safely beyond there?

We've been talking a lot about vaccines and, of course, the vaccine passports. But this is what's interesting here. Because of the variants and because so many different countries won't have many vaccines, there will be some people who don't want to take vaccines.

How crucial will rapid reliable testing be? MISCOVICH: Oh, it is going to continue to be the key and that is something that I have been trying to work with states across the United States and we're even talking to international groups. It is going to be the key.

One of the things we have to look at is how long it's going to take the rest of the world to be vaccinated. Yet the rest of the world is going to have to travel. And how do you address that is exactly what you said, rapid identifiable tests. I believe they should be done prior to departure.

When someone is on a plane and arrives in another country and then there tested, now you have that issue, you have to quarantine them for a period of time. But you are exactly correct and the good news is we're getting better technology now that is available in 30 to 40 minutes.

And the rapid tests more readily available, the antigen tests. So it can happen.

NEWTON: If you look at the high case counts around the world, sometimes it seems to me this virus is just getting started, especially when you see all the variants that have been identified. You just look at what's been happening in India recently. It's been quite sobering.

How do we find our way through that?

I know you argue that, even when it comes to vaccines, we really only hit what you call the low hanging fruit.

MISCOVICH: Yes, and then you know, according to a recent article by "Nature" and most of us would agree, we are at least 2 years before the entire world can come together and that's considering that we don't have numerous variants and even full mutations.

So we have to be thinking that, once the world is vaccinated is when we have our lives coming back. And right now as we see the inequities of where the vaccines are going, yes, the wealthy countries are all doing fine. That's fine.

But we need to find a way to come together to vaccinate the rest of the world and if we don't, then this is going to keep going on and on and masks will be part of a life, as will shots every 6 months or every year.

NEWTON: And I think many people have already resigned themselves that life will be a bit different. You mentioned the mask, that will be one of them.

But how concerned are you now that the more this virus does spread right around the world, and as I said people go to places like Brazil and India, are thinking that there is no return to normalcy, not yet for us. The virus is just taking hold there again.

How much does it concern you that the variants will be such a game- changer that 2 years to me, you have to say, Doctor, that would be great. That would be optimistic if there were only 2 years.

MISCOVICH: That's well put, Paula. And I am very concerned. And the numerous times I've been on your shows, I've stated that from the very beginning. The problem is as we're seeing right now in India, they have their double mutant, they're calling it. It's where two variants have combined. That's what viruses do.

I always say that Charles Darwin is out there smiling and saying I told you so, because these viruses are going to find a way to survive. The more we let this disease spread around the planet, the more variants will spread. Look at the United States, we are the wealthiest country.


MISCOVICH: And yet it's still spreading in spite of vaccines going in arms every day. Very concerned, the world needs to be concerned and we need them together.

NEWTON: And as I said, it's sobering to know that most places in the world have not seen their first dose, let alone getting to the last. I appreciate your time tonight.

MISCOVICH: Thank you, Paula.

NEWTON: Now a prominent Kremlin speaks out about health and conditions at the penal colony where he is incarcerated, the latest on Alexei Navalny.

Plus the Minneapolis police chief is one of the latest law enforcement officers to condemn the actions of Derek Chauvin. His powerful testimony, that's just ahead.




NEWTON: The Derek Chauvin murder trial resumed this week with more incriminating testimony from law enforcement. Defense lawyers for the former Minneapolis police officer said that their client acted within his police training when he kneeled on George Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes.

On the stand Monday, the Minneapolis police chief categorically rejected that claim.


CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that that in no way, shape or form, is anything that is by policy. It is not part of our training and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.


NEWTON: Last year, the police chief fired Chauvin and the other three officers involved in the death. Trial testimony resumes Tuesday.

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is vowing to keep up his prison hunger strike although he said he's sick with a high fever and bad cough. Newly-obtained video shot on March 26th by pro-Russian government media to illustrate what they call the exemplary conditions where he is being held.

They're holding him in a cell without any obvious signs of discomfort. State media have accused him of faking medical problems, trying to keep him in the public eye, which he and his allies deny. Navalny is serving time on fraud charges. He was arrested when came back to Russia after being treated in Germany for poisoning with a nerve agent.

CNN's Matthew Chance just arrived outside the prison and he is on the phone with us now.

Matthew, give us an update here. What exactly do we know of Navalny's condition in terms of what we've heard from him or those people close to him?


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: According to Alexei Navalny through various social media platforms and his lawyers and associates specifically, apparently he's not in great shape.

We know already that he's been suffering from a bad back for some weeks. He also said that the pain in his back has spread to both of his legs, raising concern, of course, that there may be some sort of neurological problem.

He was poisoned with a nerve agent back in August and because not much is known about the long-term effects of the poisoning because they have not so many people that survived it.

So there is concern that it could be related to that and he's gone on a hunger strike, as you mentioned, inside the colony to protest the fact that he isn't being given the care that he wants.

And since the hunger strike started, he's also developed a fever, according to social media posts, and a cough as well. There are concerns that it could be related to the pandemic but it also said that there's a lot of TB inside the prison colony where he is at the moment. And he's concerned that could be a factor as well.

So he is not in great health and there's a good deal of concern around the world. The authorities as you mentioned have been at pains actually to say he's getting all the care and he's being treated well as other prisoners they say are in the prison system.

NEWTON: Matthew, can you just elaborate on whether they have moved him to a medical facility within the prison? There seems to be some confusion about that.

And has there been any official reaction from the Kremlin?

CHANCE: It's confusion, it's one newspaper here in Russia. They have said that he has been moved to a medical facility. But that hasn't been confirmed yet to us by the actual prison authorities so we're trying to work on getting that confirmation through.

It would be a medical facility inside the penal colony. It's not a suggestion that he's been hospitalized anywhere else but the inside this penal colony. The Kremlin, that part of the question, has distanced themselves from this case and his medical condition. They are referring questions to the prison authorities and saying that -- they're repeating that Russian position that he's just another prisoner, being treated like everybody else in Russian jails.

NEWTON: Matthew, I know you'll be on top of this for the next several hours. We will see what else unfolds, Matthew Chance, there for us. Appreciate it.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in power until 2036. It lets him run for two more 6 year presidential terms once this current stint ends in 2024. but it limits any future president to 2 terms in office. Voters approved the changes last summer and both houses of parliament passed it last month. Opponents described as a constitutional coup.

Now from a family feud to a loyalty pledge, a former crown prince appears to have settled a dispute with the king of Jordan, we will explain.





NEWTON: Jordan says Prince Hamzah bin Hussein pledged his allegiance to the kingdom days after a royal dispute. The government accused of trying destabilize the country while he blamed them for corruption mismanagement.

On Monday, both sides seemed to settle things, in a fashion; in the end, the royal family said he agreed to sign a letter affirming his loyalty.

It read in part, "The national interest must remain above all else and we must all stand behind His Majesty the King in his efforts to safeguard Jordan and its national interests, and ensure the best for the Jordanian people."

Joby Warrick is a national security reporter for "The Washington Post." His new book about the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons is called "Red Line."

I don't know what you make of. This another day, another bizarre development. We have this sworn letter signed by the prince, that apparently was drafted or released by the royal court. The prince is saying that the interests of the homeland must remain above all else.

What do you make of it?

JOBY WARRICK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It appears to be a bit of de- escalation. Hello, by the way, a pleasure to be with you. It's a settling down of the dispute and an attempt to settle the problems the way the Jordanians typically do within the royal family.

This is not the first rift that's happened. That is by having a come to Jesus moment and the families come together, discussing what to do. The result of that discussion was this letter, which came out today.

It appears that the former crown prince is saying, I will respect the crown, I will play by the, rules everybody is going to be happy.

It's not as easy as, that but it's at least a step away from what we had the day before, which was a little bit more sort of rhetoric and emotionally charged discussions, some talk about what else might happen. So it's a little bit calmer today.

NEWTON: Honestly, it would serve to calm people in the country, who are wondering what was going on. It's not as if the Western allies needed any more intrigue in the Middle East. This from one of the most reliable allies in the region.

What do you think they're making of it at this point?

From intelligence services, they pretty much will have been given the king's perspective of what's going on.

WARRICK: That's true. The United States in particular is close to the Jordanians but not just the U.S. You mentioned stability. That's a unique feature about this small Arab country. It's been traditionally very stable. It's been a good ally and partner for the West and for NATO on many issues, most particularly in the fight against the Islamic State.

So we need a calm, stable Jordan. So what you see in the last couple of days is a lot of countries in the world expressing support for the king, Abdullah. People in the region doing the same.


WARRICK: Everybody saying this is a central player and the stability is really important. The friendship, the relationship, the partnership is also very important. That includes the king himself.

NEWTON: It certainly does. They were quick to come out in support of the king.

Is it true that the prince, though, and what he's done, let's face it, he put his cards on the tape for everyone to see now.

Is it true he speaks to the frustrations of the nation?

In so doing, he will in a way remain a rival to king or perhaps be the person who is seen to keep him honest?

WARRICK: The frustrations are real. They've been real for a long time. As politics and economic conditions ebb and flow, you see when people are looking around, blaming the government for the problems they are having.

That's very much the case right now. We have a country struggling with COVID, it was doing fairly well compared to other countries, now it's back in a terrible place, with 600,000 infections, 7,000 deaths, another draconian lockdown, curfews.

People are frustrated. And when the economy does badly, they start to lash out. In some ways, the former crown prince, Hamzah, has a way to channel some of those grievances. People looked at him as someone who was kind of carrying their side of the fight.

I think the king's folks would argue that we're doing the best we can, this is a difficult situation and there are no magic answers to things like COVID. Be patient with us, work with, us we are trying to do something about these problems, including corruption. It just takes some time.

NEWTON: We will see in the days and weeks to come whether or not this will go quiet, for a little while, at least.

Joby Warrick, thank you for meeting with us.

WARRICK: My pleasure.

NEWTON: The U.S. and members of the Iran nuclear deal are meeting in Vienna, to see if there is a way to salvage the 2015 agreement. The Biden administration says the goal is setting the stage for a mutual return to the deal. For now, they will not make any concessions to entice Iran.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We don't underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead. These are early days. We don't anticipate an early or media breakthrough.

As these discussions, we fully expect, will be difficult. We do believe these discussions with our partners and in turn, our partners with Iran is a healthy step forward.


NEWTON: The U.S. says it doesn't expect to hold direct talks with Iranian officials on Tuesday but said it would be open to the possibility. North Korea makes a surprise announcement about the upcoming Tokyo

Olympics. Just ahead, why they won't let their athletes take part in the competition.



NEWTON: North Korean state media says its athletes won't take part in the Tokyo Olympics because of the concerns of the coronavirus. The games are sett to start up July 23rd after being postponed after last summer. Olympic organizers said last month international spectators won't be allowed into Japan because of the virus.


NEWTON: CNN's Will Ripley is following developments live from Hong Kong.

Will, good to see you.

Is this a surprise as far as they're concerned?

What do you make of it in terms of the reasons that they gave for not going to Japan?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. It's not a huge surprise. North Korea has been one of the most careful countries when it comes to keeping COVID-19 out. They have closed their borders for well over a year now and they closed them early on.

Trade for a while all but stopped. At the expense of their own economy and the mobility of the North Korean elites who can travel with a small amount of people in that country, diplomats haven't been able to go home. People haven't been able to. Leave families that have been separated.

It's hard to imagine a scenario without the world being fully vaccinated and this crisis being over that North Korea would allow a contingent of athletes to leave their borders, join athletes from 200- plus countries in Japan, which is in the midst of this fourth wave with more contagious variants, possibly.

That said, Japan is insisting they will be able to keep these games safe. They, of course, banned foreign spectators from attending. They are saying now, they have not even received official confirmation from the North Koreans that they will be boycotting the Tokyo 2020 postponed Olympics. Listen to the chief cabinet secretary.


KATSUNOBU KATO, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (through translator): We are aware of the media reports that you have mentioned. Regarding the participation in the Tokyo games, coordination with Tokyo 2020 comes first. We will continue to monitor this closely. In addition, the government

will continue working on preparing the conditions, including infection control, so that many countries and regions can participate in the Tokyo games.


RIPLEY: This will be the first Summer Olympics that North Korea has not attended since the Seoul games that they boycotted back in 1988. For the South Korean administration and President Moon Jae-in, this is a huge setback.

This was probably their last opportunity for any sort of in-person discussions that could reopen the door to diplomacy. President Moon built his political foundation on and he saw that foundation crumble after the collapse of the Hanoi (INAUDIBLE) --


RIPLEY: -- back in 2019 and now North Korea is shunning contact with South Korea and the United States.

NEWTON: Thanks for that update.

Thank you all for watching, I'm Paula Newton. "WORLD SPORT" is up next.