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E.U. to Let Fully-Vaccinated Americans Visit This Summer; White House Advisor: Vaccinations Are Key to More Freedom; Cases, Deaths Surge in India Amid Second COVID Wave; Japan Struggles with Surge 3 Months Ahead of Olympics; Pandemic-Era Academy Awards Show Makes History; Two Iraqi Officials Suspended after Deadly Hospital Fire; Junta Leader Attends Asean Summit on Ending Violence; Harris Says She Was Last in Room on Withdrawal Decision; Minnesota Attorney General Wasn't Sure They'd Win Case; Russian State Media: Putin and Biden May Meet in June; Biden's Approval Ratings Marked by Sharp Partisan Divides. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 26, 2021 - 00:00   ET




So coming up on the show, getting back to normal. When fully- vaccinated Americans might be able to go maskless outside and plan trips to Europe again.

And the Tokyo games are in trouble as the Olympics approach. Japan is in the midst of a fourth COVID wave and struggling to roll out the vaccine.

And history made in Hollywood. A big night for Asian women at the Oscars.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: We begin here in the U.S. with new hopeful signs that life could begin returning to normal pretty soon, helped by a steady increase in vaccinations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 95 million people are now fully vaccinated. That's more than a quarter of the population, and more than 42 percent have had at least one dose.

Now America's top disease expert says new CDC guidance will be coming very soon on what fully-vaccinated people can do, particularly when it comes to outdoor mask use. Here's what Dr. Anthony Fauci told Jim Acosta.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You're going to be seeing people wanting to do things outdoors without masks, and it's common sense to know that the risk when you are outdoors, which we have been saying all along, is extremely low. And if you are vaccinated, it's even lower. So you're going to be hearing about those kinds of recommendations soon.


CURNOW: And there's even more good news for Americans hoping to go on holiday in Europe. The European Commission president tells "The New York Times" that fully-vaccinated Americans will be able to visit E.U. countries this summer. Here's Richard Quest with that story.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: The E.U. and the U.S. have been working on a deal for some time. Now the Europeans have accepted in principle that since Americans are being vaccinated, with one of three vaccines, all of which are being approved by the European regulator. Then there's no reason why U.S. citizens shouldn't have access, unconditional access to the European Union.

There are logistical problems. They involve recognizing the vaccination certificates being issued in the United States. The E.U. is using -- moving towards a digital green pass, whereas Americans are being given little white cards. So how to ensure those cards are valid and not forgeries at the border? That will be a big question.

As for the United Kingdom, they won't be part of any deal with the E.U., because the U.K. is not a member of the European Union. However, it will be astonishing if the United Kingdom didn't have its own deal in place before long.

Richard Quest, CNN, New York.


CURNOW: Experts say vaccinations are one of the biggest factors in getting life back to normal. White House senior advisor Andy Slavitt explains to CNN's Pam Brown how that would happen much faster for those who are fully vaccinated.


ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE COVID SENIOR ADVISOR: So far, we have more than half of adult -- of adult Americans that have done their vaccine shots. That's great. But that also means that we have near half Americans who still haven't done that yet.

So I think we're increasingly going to see a world where people who have been vaccinated are going to enjoy a lot of freedoms. They're going to feel like they can take on a lot of activities, low-risk. They can reunite with families. And the cases are going to continue to be there for people who haven't been vaccinated yet.

So whether it's a traveling to Europe or whether it's just seeing your family and friends without having to worry, vaccination is the key.


CURNOW: But the global epicenter of the pandemic right now is in India, which is seeing some really mind-blowing COVID numbers amid a second surge. We know that hospitals are overwhelmed, and the Indian government is planning to set up more than 550 oxygen generation plants to ensure adequate supply.

For the past few days, the country has set new world records for daily cases and daily deaths. The U.S., the U.K., and the European Union are also sending supplies and support to India. And U.S. health officials took to the airwaves to explain why helping the country is just so crucial.


FAUCI: We do take the very difficult situation that India is going through very, very seriously. You know, the United States and India are the two countries now that have suffered the most.

Things like getting them vaccinations is certainly on the table.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It matters to us for several reasons. First and foremost because we are human beings and we should care about what happens to other human beings around the world.

Second, though, if there is uncontrolled spread of the virus in other parts of the world. That means that there's a greater chance that new mutations and variants will develop and may escape the protection of the vaccines that we have in the United States. And that means that those viruses, those mutant virus, those new variants could travel here to the U.S. and cause real challenges here.



CURNOW: Anna Coren is tracking the developments and joins us now live from Hong Kong, with more on this devastating situation that's happening in India. And it's not just an Indian problem, as the Americans are saying there. This is a real global tragedy that's playing out.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And that contagious variant that has been identified in India, one of few, I might add, has been seen already in Switzerland and the U.K. It is popping up around the world.

So this is not just a Indian problem, but right now India is ground zero. As you say yesterday, it set another global record for a fourth consecutive day. We are waiting any moment to hear from the health ministry with their official numbers on daily infections and deaths.

But we can only presume that the graph is only heading in one way. It is going up. The doctors, the health experts that we have spoken to believe that the official numbers, they're almost 350,000 daily infections yesterday, almost 2,700 deaths. More than 2,700 deaths, that they are just a fraction of what the true number is.

That the number of bodies being taken to the crematoriums, it just does not add up. We spoke to Doctor Robin, who said in his 50 years of practicing medicine he has never seen anything like this. That he's had patients die, but they die because of a reason, a disease, an illness. He said these patients are dying because there is no oxygen. A lack of oxygen, which in any hospital around the world is a basic right. It's a requirement. It is a need.

And yet India and Delhi, of all places, the capital, which is supposed to have the best hospital systems compared to the rest of the country is facing this acute shortage.

He also interestingly said that the infection rate in Delhi, Robyn, at the moment, as it stands, is around 30, 32 percent. He believes the real number is more like 50, 60 percent. So you are talking about half of Delhi's residents who are infected with COVID.

We -- we are getting stories from people who we are speaking, you know, via -- via the phone of how they have traveled hundreds and hundreds of kilometers within the space of a days to fill up their families' cylinder -- oxygen cylinders, because hospitals are not accepting patients unless they bring their own oxygen supply. It really is catastrophic what is taking place right now.

CURNOW: Thank you for that update. And of course, we'll continue to monitor this in the next few hours here on CNN and speak to a few doctors from India, as well. Anna, we'll check in with you again, as well. Thank you.

So the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games are approaching fast. But there's certainly growing concern about public safety as COVID infections there are on the rise, as well.

Japan has declared its third state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, and two other prefectures. And to make matters worse, less than 1 percent of its population is fully vaccinated.

Well, joining me now from Tokyo is Selina Wang.

Selina, what's the situation where you are right now?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, as you say, it is just staggering. About less than 1 percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated, and we are just months away from the Olympics. Yet another state of emergency has just been put in place. And this is not a hard lockdown, but it does ask large commercial facilities like shopping malls and places that serve alcohol to shut down.

But the big question is, is this even going to work? COVID fatigue has certainly set in here, and while Violators can be fined, it largely still relies on voluntary compliance. And I can certainly say that walking through the streets of Tokyo, many areas are still quite crowded. And now, just months away, a growing number of experts are saying

they're concerned that this could turn into a super-spreader event, that these Olympic games would not only enable the spread of dangerous COVID variants through Japan but also around the world.


WANG (voice-over): The Tokyo Olympics are just three months away, but Japan is far from ready. The country is struggling to contain a fourth week of COVID-19, driven by more contagious variants.

The prime minister has just declared another state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures. Japan may be one of the most technologically-advanced countries on the planet, but it has struggled to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine.

Japan has fully vaccinated less than 1 percent of its 126 million people, the slowest of G-7 countries. Only 17 percent of healthcare workers have received two shots. Just 0.1 percent of senior citizens have had a single dose.


(on camera): Do you think the Olympics should be canceled?

KENJI SHIBUYA, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR POPULATION HEALTH, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON: I think it is time to consider it (ph) and eventually cancel it.

WANG: If you had to predict when Japan's population will be fully vaccinated, I mean, how long is it going to be?

SHIBUYA: Given the current pace, it would take 10 years or something.

WANG (voice-over): Officials have blamed European export curbs for the delay, but red tape, poor planning and vaccine hesitancy have also held the country back.

A key reason is Japan's slow approval process. The country requires additional domestic clinical trials of new vaccines. So far, it's only approved Pfizer's.

Officials say the cautiousness is necessary. Japan has one of the lowest rates of vaccine confidence in the world, driven by a series of vaccine scandals over the past 50 years.

A key lawmaker said vaccinations for people over 65, which only started this month, may not be finished until end of this year or next.

For Japanese Olympic hopefuls, the slow roll-out is leading to mounting anxiety. Seventy-three-year-old Kimie Bessho is vying to be in her fifth summer Paralympic Games, a competition she says she's risking her life for.

"I'm prepared to die under these circumstances," she tells me. "But I don't want to die of COVID."

The qualifiers for Paralympic table tennis are just weeks away in Slovenia. Bessho says she's called her local health center many times. They say they still have no plan to provide vaccines.

Despite public opposition to the games in Japan, officials have projected unwavering confidence.

YOSHIHIDE SUGA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I express my determination to realize the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympic Games as a symbol of global unity this summer.

WANG: And President Biden once again expressed his support, he said. The question is what kind of symbol the Olympics will be if Japan is unable to protect its citizens.


WANG: Now the government says that they're going to ramp up vaccinations. They're going to set up these large-scale facilities next month in Tokyo and Osaka that can vaccinate as many as 10,000 people per day.

But the question is how much of a dent is this actually going to make? But certainly, at least it is a start in addressing these concerns about shortage of vaccination venues, as well as staff to administer them -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you for that report. Selina Wang there in Tokyo.

Now, kindergarten and primary schools in France are set to reopen in the coming hours, with officials saying the country's COVID situation is improving, but a nationwide overnight curfew will stay in place until at least May. Germany, though, likely won't lift coronavirus restrictions until the end of next month, since it's seven-day average of new cases continues to climb.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a vaccine rollout today. And in Italy, Italy is starting a gradual easing of restrictions in areas with low infection rates. Students can return to classes, and outdoor activities will be allowed.

And the film industry has been through a dramatic shift due to the pandemic, but as the saying goes, the show must go on. And the producers of the Oscars just proved they could pull off an awards show despite all the challenges of the pandemic era.

There were a lot of great moments. And history was made at Sunday's big event in Hollywood. The biggest winner of the night was "Nomadland." The film won several awards, including Best Picture.


CHLOE ZHAO, BEST DIRECTOR WINNER: We thank the Academy, and we thank our brilliant fellow nominees. And we thank all the --


CURNOW: "Nomadland" tells the story of a van-dwelling woman who roams the American west. It's the -- only the second film directed by a woman in Oscars history to win for Best Picture.

And the film's director, Chloe Zhao, also won for best director. She's the first Asian woman to win that category in Oscars history.

The star of "Nomadland," Frances McDormand, won Best Actress for her celebrated performance.

And then in another historic win, Youn Yuh-Jung became the first Korean actress to win an Oscar for her supporting role in the film, "Minari."

And Anthony Hopkins won for Best Actor in his role in "The Father." At 83, he's now the oldest Oscar winner ever.

For more on the history-making evening at the Oscars, let's bring in Will Ripley in Hong Kong.

Will, hi. Wonderful to see you. What's the reaction there to this really big night when it comes to diversity?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, unfortunately, here in Hong Kong, people didn't get to see the Oscars, Robyn, because the leading TV broadcaster here, after a similar move in mainland China, which they decided not to air the Oscars due to concerns that Chloe Zhao might say something detrimental about her homeland, although in fact, she spoke lovingly about it and talked about playing a game with her father that talked about memorizing classic texts; talking about the good in all people, the kind of stuff that actually would be a propaganda win for Beijing.


But because they were so fearful because of one interview that she gave years ago to a magazine, where she said that she grew up in a place where lies were everywhere, audiences in China didn't get to see it, and audiences here in Hong Kong didn't get to see the broadcast for the first time in more than half a century, with the broadcasters saying it was a commercial decision.

But you have a huge night for Asian winners. I mean, you mentioned how we have the first, you know, South Korean actress to win for the Best Supporting Actor category. You have Chloe Zhao and all of her historic wins. The first women of color to win an Oscar.

And it's also a year where a lot of people haven't been able to go to the movies. So people have been watching these films in an entirely different way.

Look at this statistic, Robyn. Five of the eight Best Picture contenders either premiered exclusively on streaming services or simultaneously in theaters. You had Netflix, 35 nominations this year. Think about where we were

five years ago. People would have never thought that a company like Netflix would now be a leader in producing award-winning content. My first job, years and years ago, Robyn, was to scoop popcorn in a movie theater. It was the ritual for people to go to the theaters, and maybe that will happen again.

What these Oscars have shown is that this amazing content can be created and distributed in very different ways than ever before. That's one of the many lessons that we've learned during this pandemic.

And it's -- I have to say, Robyn, in terms of the -- the Asian representation, that is very meaningful for people, especially at a time that just last week, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly for anti-hate crime legislation, because of the hatred that's been targeted towards Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And so these wins mean so much more than just the statuettes. You have very important cultural issues also at play.

CURNOW: Certainly. Will Ripley there in Hong Kong. Thanks, Will.

So just ahead here on CNN, more than 80 people are dead from a fire in a Baghdad hospital. And Iraq's prime minister says some government officials are under investigation over this tragedy. We have that story, next.


CURNOW: Indonesia is officially pronouncing the 53 crew members on board a sunken submarine dead. The missing vessel was found broken into several parts about two miles from its last known location in the Bali Strait.

Search teams found the sub's wreckage on the sea floor at a depth which the crew could not have survived. A navy official says the crew are not to blame for the disaster. He blamed a natural, or environmental factor but did not provide further details.

And Iraq's prime minister has suspended the country's health minister and the governor of Baghdad. It comes after at least 82 people were killed in a massive fire at a hospital treating COVID patients. Now, officials believe it started when oxygen tanks exploded.

Arwa Damon has the latest -- Arwa.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The person filming cries out in horror. There is the sound of another blast from within the inferno. A woman screams.

It's Baghdad's infectious diseases hospital, filled with COVID-19 patients and their family members. Hussein Salam (ph) was inside, caring for his mother. He was urging her to try to eat something. "I couldn't save her," he sobs. "We tried to evacuate my mom, but once

we reached the door, we were blown away by one of the blasts," he remembers.

The pain, still so raw, so incomprehensible.

He's at the Baghdad morgue, waiting for her charred remains, along with the others whose loved ones either suffocated to death or were burnt, some beyond recognition.

His father's anger seeps through his sorrow. "When tragedies happen, government officials always give bogus reasons. They always try to justify their devilish ways," he says.

As seen in this CCTV video, the explosion, believed to be an oxygen tank that blew, coming from inside one of the rooms. People start to run. Someone, it looks like a patient, an elderly man, is pulled out. The flames appear to be getting larger.

A man arrives with a handheld fire extinguisher, but with no fireproofing, it was not enough. That blast led to a series of others. The fire alarm was faulty. It was half of an hour before the civil defense says it got a call.

By the time they responded, so many were dead. So many were wounded. Residents in the area had taken it upon themselves to try to help, breaking through windows to save those inside.

Back in February, we filmed at this hospital, in the intensive care unit. We spoke to doctors and family members about people's reluctance to come to hospitals; about the lack of faith in Iraq's healthcare systems, who have yet to recover from sanctions dating back to the Saddam Hussein era. And then, nonstop war and rampant corruption.

This, this is what all of that has led to.

Muqtada (ph) stares at his hands, cut up from breaking glass to let in some air. His aunt and grandmother perished inside. He could not save them. No one could imagine this could happen, he says.

But tragically, Iraq has a way of delivering the unimaginable. And with it, unimaginable pain.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.


CURNOW: Palestinian celebrated on Sunday night after police barriers at the center of nightly clashes in Jerusalem came down. People filled the streets, waving flags and gathered in celebration outside Jerusalem's Damascus gate.

The area had been a scene of clashes as Palestinians say police tried to prevent them from holding their usual Ramadan evening gatherings outside the gate. Coming up on CNN, we'll have that story.


Also, leaders in southeast Asia reach an agreement on ending the violent military crackdown in Myanmar. The pro-democracy activists say it won't be enough.


CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers, here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow, live from Atlanta. It is 28 minutes past the hour.

So Myanmar's deposed civilian leader is expected to appear at another court hearing in the coming hours. Aung San Suu Kyi is facing six charges from the military, which stole power back in February.

Meanwhile, the junta leader attended the Asean summit this weekend, his first international appearance since the coup. The summit ended with a consensus agreement that the violent crackdowns on protesters must come to an end.

But pro-democracy activists tell us that is not nearly good enough. Paula Hancocks has the details, live from Bangkok.

Paula, tell us what disagreement means. Is this a concession to the military junta?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, what this means is that they have agreed on a five-step plan at this point, which is a little more than some were expecting them to do.

But what it does not do, according to Malaysia's prime minister speaking to reporters, most put the blame on the military junta for the violence. The prime minister told reporters that, in fact, the violence must stop, but didn't point out that it was the military's fault, saying that Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup, believed that the protesters were causing the violence, which, clearly is not the case.

But what they did do was agree on this five-step plan, which is to end the violence. Constructive dialog. They'll have an envoy for Asean, for these southeast Asian nations who will be allowed into Myanmar, at least on paper. And then also, the acceptance of aid.

What it doesn't do, as well, is mentioned prisoners. There are well over 3,300 people who have been arrested, sentenced, or in prison already, according to the advocacy group AAPP, including the ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the former president of that Democratically-elected government. So that has been part of the consensus.

Now, activists have criticized this, saying it doesn't go far enough. It doesn't put the blame on the military. And also pointing out there is a national unity government, which has been formed of some of those ousted leaders, some of the pro-democracy protest leaders, the ethnic leaders. And they were not invited to this summit. They didn't have a seat at the table. But as far as Asean is concerned, this group that doesn't usually

interfere in an individual member state's political matters, they believe that this is at least an initial step and try and stop the violence, in trying to have differentiations on the ground.

Now, Min Aung Hlaing, as far as we know, agreed to these steps. He hasn't said anything publicly, so we just have to really see if they will be brought into play, and they will actually be physically carried out.

As of this point, there's nothing that appears to be different on the ground. There are small protests still daring to go out onto the streets, and there is still a crackdown by the military -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Paula Hancocks, thank you.

So despite a global pandemic, there were a lot of great moments and history being made during Sunday's academy Award show in Hollywood. We're going to take a look at some of the big wins. That's next.



CURNOW: The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is now underway. The commander of the U.S.-led mission says the official notification to withdraw will be this Saturday, but the General Austin Scott Millett (ph) says troop movements have already begun in local areas.

President Joe Biden has promised to get troops out of Afghanistan by September the 11th, putting an end to America's longest war.

But many are warning the Taliban will seize on a U.S. exits and could launch a bid to topple the central government. And U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris tells CNN she was the last person in the room when President Biden made the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Here's more of what she told our Dana Bash in this CNN exclusive.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: President Biden always said that he wants you to be the last person in the room, particularly for big decisions, just as he was for President Obama. He just made a really big decision. Afghanistan.


BASH: Were you the last person in the room?


BASH: And you feel comfortable?

HARRIS: I do. And I'm going to add to that. This is a president who has an extraordinary amount of courage. He is someone who I have seen over and over again make decisions based on what he truly believes, based on his years of doing this work and studying these issues, what he truly believes is the right thing to do.

And I'm going to tell you something about him. He's acutely aware that it may not be politically popular or advantageous for him personally. It's really something to see, and I wish that the American public could see sometimes what I see.

Because ultimately, and the decision always rests with him. But I have seen him over and over again make decisions based exactly on what he believes is right, regardless of maybe the political people tell him is in his best selfish interest.


CURNOW: We'll have much more from Vice President Harris later on in the show, where she speaks to Dana Bash about policing in America. So stick around for that one.

Now, protesters marched in Los Angeles on Sunday, demanding justice in the wake of several police killings in the U.S. Activists say the guilty verdict in the trial of disgraced former Officer Derek Chauvin is a good start but that much more police reform is needed.

Others went further and called for defunding and abolishing the police. But overall, everyone was united in the desire to keep the momentum in the fight for justice.

One activist described the atmosphere to CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy, a diverse group. I'm happy that it's still going. And everybody is, you know, in the spirit of love. No violence. We just want to protest and keep the protest moving.


CURNOW: The lead prosecutor in Derek Chauvin's trial made a candid confession. He said he was never convinced they would win the case until the verdict was finally read.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison spoke with "60 Minutes" a short time ago. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has the details on that -- Adrienne.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like many Minnesotans and black Americans across the country, Attorney General Keith Ellison experienced disappointment. Ellison was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Derek Chauvin. He revealed in a "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday he had doubts about this case.


SCOTT PELLEY, "60 MINUTES": Was there ever a time that you thought you could lose this case? KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was never convinced we

were going to win this case until we heard the verdicts of guilty. I remember what happened in the Rodney King case when I was a pretty young man, a young lawyer, and I remember how devastated I felt when I heard that the jury acquitted those officers.

Whenever an officer is charged with an offense, particularly when a victim is a person of color, it's just rare that there's any -- any accountability. And so there was -- every moment of this case, I thought what are we missing? What haven't we done?

BROADDUS But Ellison assembled the team, some of the prosecutors working on a volunteer basis, and over an 11-month period Ellison and his team reviewed that video. The video that shows George Floyd pleading for his life. And on that video, Ellison says at least 27 times Floyd said he could not breathe.

Ellison also said during that "60 Minutes" interview, he and his team had to act as if they didn't have any video.

PELLEY: When you first heard the word "guilty," you thought what?

ELLISON: Gratitude. Humility. Followed by a certain sense of I'll say satisfaction. It's what we were aiming for the whole time.

I spent 16 years as a criminal defense lawyer, so I will admit, I felt a little bad for the defendant. I think he deserved to be convicted, but he's a human being.


PELLEY: Somehow, I did not expect to hear from you a note of compassion for Derek Chauvin.

ELLISON: I'm not in any way wavering from my responsibility, but I hope we never forget that people who are defendants in our criminal justice system, that they're -- they're human beings. They're people. I mean, George Floyd was a human being. And so I'm not going to ever forget that everybody in this process is a person.

BROADDUS (on camera): Meanwhile, I wasn't surprised by Ellison's compassion. It speaks to his character. And it's a cornerstone of his faith.

Chauvin is scheduled for sentencing in mid-June.

Adrienne Broaddus, CNN, Minneapolis.


CURNOW: Well, thank you so much for spending part of your day with me. I'm Robyn Curnow, live in Atlanta. If you're an international viewer, WORLD SPORT is next. Enjoy that.

But if you're joining us from here in the U.S. or in Canada, I'll be right back with more news. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CURNOW: Welcome back. So the Biden administration is dealing with challenges both at home and abroad. Among them, heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia.

And now, there's word the two leaders could sit down for a meeting as soon as the summit. Fred Pleitgen has the details from Moscow -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A senior aide to the Kremlin, Yuri Ushakov went on Russian state TV on Sunday, and there he said that June is a possible date for a summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now the way that Ushakov put it, he said that June is being talked about, and that there are also even specific dates being talked about, as well.

He does say, of course, there are still many things that need to be worked out. We did reach out to the Biden administration, and they so far have not given any sort of update on the matter.

The Russians, for their part, are also saying so far there are no meetings on a working level to try and hash out what exactly these two leaders would be talking about and also what progress could possibly be made.

However, all this does sound quite plausible as President Biden will indeed be in Europe in June. He's first going to attend the G-7 summit in the United Kingdom. He's then set to go to the NATO summit in Brussels.

So in and around that time, of course, also, somewhere in Europe is where a meeting between President Biden and Vladimir Putin could then take place.

Now all this, of course, comes during a period of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia. You had the Biden administration hitting the Russians with some really tough sanctions for the election meddling in 2020. And also for the SolarWinds hack.

The Russians, for their part, retaliating and banning an array of top U.S. officials. Then you had the Russians this week withdraw some of their forces from the border with Ukraine. That eased some tensions.

And also Alexei Navalny, the opposition politician, he was able to see some independent doctors, as well.

Nevertheless, the tensions between the U.S. and Russia do remain high.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


And President Biden is set to mark his 100th day in office this week, but before he does that, he will give his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Mr. Biden is expected to outline his economic agenda and his proposal on how to pay for it all.

Joe Jones has more -- Joe.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So how does Joe Biden stack up against some of his predecessors in the White House? He's coming in at the low end of modern American presidents, according to some of the recent polling.

He is ahead of Donald Trump, but substantially behind both Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

So the question is why is that? The answer is the country has been polarized since Donald Trump left office. It's clear that most Democrats give Joe Biden high marks. Most Republicans do not.

It's going to be a big week for Joe Biden. The capstone of it will be that speech on Capitol Hill, the address to Congress. But even before that, he is expected to lay out some of the facets of his plan for American families on Tuesday.

And then on Thursday, he's expected to fly out to Georgia to celebrate what he sees as the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office.

Joe Johns, CNN, Wilmington, Delaware.


CURNOW: "Nomadland" is the biggest winner at this year's Oscars. It won several Academy awards, including Best Picture.


ZHAO: We thank the Academy, and we thank our brilliant fellow nominees. And we thank all the hearts and hands that come together to make this movie.


CURNOW: The film's director, Chloe Zhao, won the best director. She's the first Asian woman to win that category in Oscars history.

And the star of "Nomadland," Frances McDormand, who won Best Actress for her celebrated performance as a van-dwelling woman who roams the American west.

For more on all of this, I want to bring in Michael Musto in New York. He's an American journalist who's covered the entertainment industry for decades. Michael, lovely to see you. So before we go to the actual movies,

because it was historic on many levels, in terms of the diversity of winners. I do want to talk about the awards show, because you tweeted it was torture. Many, many people on Twitter saying it was boring, it was not funny, it wasn't fast enough. The ending was a bit of a damp squib. Does that matter?

MICHAEL MUSTO, JOURNALIST, "THE VILLAGE VOICE": Yes, it does, because they were expecting low ratings anyway. It was a bad year for movies for obvious reasons.

And the thing is they did try to sort of reinvent the show to reflect the serious times that we're living in. But as a result, the speeches were too long. Many of them were too earnest, though there were some very powerful speeches.


The songs were all done in the preshow. There were no entertainment segments. There was comedy towards the end, with Glenn Close dancing "Da Butt," which actually was funny.

But for the most part, it was just like a liberal convention of the type that can make you hate liberals, and I'm a liberal.

CURNOW: So let's talk about some of the themes, and as you say, a lot of social justice, a lot of diversity very much front and center with the movies, with the winners, with the themes. What was -- what was the headline for you?

MUSTO: Very dark films that reflect our times and very good films, even though a lot of the big films from last year were pushed to this year.

"Nomadland," of course, is the big movie. Frances McDormand was brilliant. I was happy to see her win her third Oscar for Best Actress. And she plays a woman who loses everything: her husband and her job. And she takes to her van and lives among the evanescent nomad community.

The supporting players were diverse. The winners, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pointing out were Daniel Kaluuya for "Judas and the Black Messiah." He plays Black Panther. Fred Hampton, and he's quite brilliant in his fiery speech scene.

And supporting actress Young Yuh-Jung for "Minari." She's wonderful as the offbeat grandfather with a Korean-American family in Arkansas, and her speeches deserve awards in themselves. She's just charming and funny.

CURNOW: Well, she didn't take herself very seriously, which I think this awards show did, and that certainly stood out.

Let's talk, though, about Asian women in particular and women also very much are front and center, which is great. MUSTO: Absolutely. I mean, anti-Asian hate has been in the news, and

it's important to celebrate Asian culture. Chloe Zhao and Yuen Yuh- Jung are both brilliant women who are richly deserving of their awards.

Yes, there was a lot of diversity on parade. I was very happy for Tyler Perry's speech, which was against hate, though I was hoping he would say something about the voter suppression in Georgia, where he is based, though he has said it elsewhere.

And of course, foreign film -- international film is now what they call foreign film. Sorry.

CURNOW: It's OK. We're -- you know, it is what it is. And I do want to talk about it, because it's about booze, anyway, isn't it?


CURNOW: It's the Danish movie "Another Round," which has got Mads Mickelson and just -- just fantastic, isn't it?

MUSTO: And I don't drink anymore, so I have to rely on movies like this to show me people drinking.

And it's not really a celebration.

CURNOW: Allow me. It's good.

MUSTO: But basically, it's a movie about four high school teachers, including Mads Mickelson's character, who decide to keep the alcohol level in their blood very high to see how it affects their lives.

And I'm not saying it's a celebration of alcoholism. It's really a study of bonding, and it's very life-affirming.

And can we talk about Best Documentary, which was "My Octopus Teacher," which is also life-affirming. It's a really offbeat nature film about a man having a mid-life crisis who bonds with a female octopus. Octopus is way more than calamari on your plate or something. They're actually very smart. And --

CURNOW: As the South African here interviewing you, this is -- this is a South African production, so I think there's been -- there's been a great reaction to that, as well. It's -- it's a great piece of work, isn't it? Why do you think it is?

MUSTO: Because it's sort of an interspecies love story. It's an interspecies buddy movie, and it's beautiful nature photography and editing. Really well done.

CURNOW: And what do you make of the fact that Disney came out in front with "Nomadland"? Maybe Netflix not winning the way it would have had, but still the fact that Netflix was up there with so many nominations. It certainly -- everything has changed, hasn't it? It does seem, you know, things are really not as they were. MUSTO: Well, a few years ago, people were mad, and the Academy was mad

at streaming services, because they were, in their mind, taking away movie theater business.

But last year, movie theaters were closed for the most part. There was COVID lockdown, so the streaming services really saved us. So no one's mad anymore. Netflix does really well at awards now.

And of course, the big shock of the night was Chadwick Boseman, the brilliant late actor, was expected to win for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" for Best Actor, and a lot of people thought Viola Davis would win Best Actress for the same film. But Anthony Hopkins won. He wasn't even there. He's brilliant in "The Father" as a mind kind of losing his grip on reality. And Frances McDormand, like I said, brilliant in "Nomadland." There's no "Nomadland" without her. She is the heart and soul of the movie.

It was great to see her win, and she gave her typical quirky, unconventional speech. She was howling like a wolf because their sound mixer for that movie, Michael Wolf Snyder, had died. He committed suicide earlier this year, and that was very sad.

CURNOW: So when -- when folks sit down and digest the awards this year, there have been various incarnations of how to deal with a COVID awards ceremony. What is going to stick, and what isn't? And what do you think viewers want from these awards? Or is this the beginning of the end when it comes to actually showcasing movies like this on TV and celebrating?


MUSTO: I think when they see the lousy ratings and the bad reviews, they're going to say let's next year go back to the way it was. Let's start -- let's get a host, start with somebody funny, have them do a monologue or a montage. Let's not do Best Picture early. They did that this time. I think because they thought Chadwick was going to win, and they would end with a weepy tribute to him. Anthony Hopkins won, and he wasn't there. It was a dud ending.

You have to end with Best Picture, put the five best songs in the telecast, keep it lively and upbeat, and bring in that orchestra to drown out the speeches, because they really were interminable.

CURNOW: Michael Musto, thank you very much. You've had a long night, haven't you? Are you exhausted?

MUSTO: I'm ready -- I'm ready for the orchestra to cut me off. Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. All the best. Thanks a lot.

So NASA's Ingenuity helicopter is setting records on its third flight on Mars in a week, going further and faster than before. Ingenuity's navigation camera shot black-and-white images that could help with aerial scouting in future missions. The 80-second flight was also captured by cameras on the

"Perseverance" rover. NASA says Ingenuity will likely fly again in the next few days.

So that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Robyn Curnow. I'll be back in just a moment with more news.