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Pieces Of Chinese Rocket Land In Indian Ocean; Experts Critical Of Indian Government's Complacency; Arab League To Discuss Jerusalem Unrest In Special Session Monday; L.A. Restaurant Owners Struggling To Find Workers; Russia Marks WWII Victory Day; Nicola Sturgeon Promises Scotland New Independence Vote; In Afghanistan, 30 Killed, Dozens Wounded In Blasts Near Girls' School; Paralympian Willing To Risk Her Life For Games. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 9, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Great to have you along. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So just ahead on CNN:


CURNOW (voice-over): More clashes in Jerusalem over the eviction of Palestinian families.


CURNOW (voice-over): Plus the out-of-control rocket saga is finally over. We'll speak with an aerospace engineer about the heat China is now take over this uncontrolled re-entry.

And then India's hardhit Delhi region warns it will run out of vaccines in a few days. More on the deepening crisis ahead.


CURNOW: We begin in Jerusalem, where sounds of evening prayers filled Al Aqsa mosque in a moment of peace before violence erupted in the city for a second straight night.


CURNOW (voice-over): Tensions hit a fever pitch in East Jerusalem over possible evictions of Palestinian families. An aid organization says at least 100 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and stun grenades fired by police. Police say they were trying to disperse crowds of people, who were throwing stones and fireworks.


CURNOW: I want to bring in Hadas Gold.

What's happening right now?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, last night was al-Qadr, which is the holiest night of Ramadan for Muslims. And there were clashes across East Jerusalem. I'm standing outside of Damascus gate. This is one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem for Muslims.

This was the scene of some of those clashes last night. There was also some unrest in Sheikh Jarrah, which is the neighborhood where those Palestinian families you mentioned, who are facing possible eviction, it's where they live. There's also been several days of unrest on that street.

And there was also, earlier this morning, some unrest at the Al Aqsa compound, which is this space also known as the Temple Mount. But last night, the Palestinian Red Cross said about 100 people were injured. Six of them were under 18, including one 1-yea -old.

Police say that these protesters at these various sites were hurling rocks and fireworks at them. Police responded with rubber bullets, stun grenades and skunk water, this very foul-smelling water, which you can actually still smell here in the plaza outside of Damascus gate today.

But as you noted, this comes after Friday night, which saw some of the worst levels of unrest and tension and clashes that the city has seen in several years. That was focused on the Al Aqsa compound and on the Al Aqsa mosque, which is also known, of course, as the Temple Mount.

There has been increasing levels of concern, condemnation and statements from the international community, from the European Union, from the U.S. State Department and several members of Congress, specifically about those possible evictions of those Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

And the Arab League announced they are planning to hold an extraordinary session on Monday to discuss what they say are the Israeli crimes. Much of the increasing concern here is on tomorrow, because tomorrow is what's known as Jerusalem Day. It's the day that Israel marks when they took control of the Western Wall.

And we are expecting a big march of Israelis through the Old City, which could inflame certain tensions, especially depending on where they walk in the Old City, if they walk through Muslim areas of the Old City.

It is also the day that we may actually see a ruling from the supreme court on those possible evictions of those families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Really a confluence of events here, Robyn.

We've got Ramadan, which can sometimes be a tense time here. We also have the possible evictions of those families and we have Jerusalem Day. All of these things, this calendar is really just contributing to the tension that we are seeing, a lot of concern tomorrow on what we may see and if there could be more violence tomorrow -- Robyn. CURNOW: OK. Thanks for keeping us posted on all of that. Hadas Gold

there live in Jerusalem. Thank you.

So the voyage of that wayward Chinese rocket is over now. Chinese officials say parts of it fell into the Indian Ocean just west of the Maldives. U.S. Space Command says part of the rocket re-entered over the Arabian Peninsula but they have not yet confirmed the impact site.

When it flew over parts of Saudi Arabia it was just a speck in the sky. See if you can see it here.


CURNOW (voice-over): The rocket was big and heavy, 10 stories high and weighing 22 tons. China's national space agency says most of the devices it carried were destroyed during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. We're awaiting final confirmation on the landing but so far no reports of damage or casualties.



CURNOW: Will Ripley has been following the trajectory of this from Hong Kong and joins us now live with more on the story.

So we're still waiting to hear exactly where it went down.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, China claims that it went down in an area pretty close to the Maldives, southwest of Sri Lanka and India, in the Indian Ocean, Robyn, a part of the ocean that a space agency would not deliberately put down this large of an object after an uncontrolled re-entry.

Now other space agencies do choose the Indian Ocean but they go much farther south to remote areas, as far away from land and shipping lanes as possible. This touchdown, however, it was really left up to chance.

China's space agency did say they were confident there would not be any danger to aircraft or ships and they didn't think it would go down on land, certainly not a land area with a lot of people. But the only reason they were able to say that relatively confidently is because of the odds; 70 percent of the world is covered with ocean.

So odds are it probably would go down in the water. And there also are very few areas that are actually densely populated. But there were areas within the possible impact zone where a lot of people lived.

So even though the odds worked out this time, what if they hadn't?

We'd be having a very different conversation right now. And that is why you have growing calls of condemnation from more advanced Western space agencies, that may have done similar things in terms of uncontrolled re-entry decades ago. Think about NASA's Skylab space station in 1979, that famously littered debris over western Australia. That was an uncontrolled re-entry more than 40 years ago.

But since then they try much harder to make sure that these items either stay in orbit, which has contributed to a massive orbiting junkyard of space junk, or they bring them down in areas where they definitely won't pose a danger.

And there were no definites in terms of this re-entry. The NASA administrator in the United States, senator Bill Nelson, put out a statement on the NASA website overnight.

It reads, "Space-faring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations. It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris."

Certainly did make for quite a social media sensation, though, Robyn. You mentioned how there were those videos, posted from people on the ground in Saudi Arabia; also in Israel and in Jordan. Just a tiny little speck in the sky there.

But a lot of people, who were following this rocket's trajectory online, on social media, watching livestreams, even an astronomer in Japan, who took a much more high-quality image of the rocket in its final hours, it showed how interested people were in this.

Interested and perhaps a bit unsettled, despite the tiny odds of any real damage. But China, which is planning more launches like this in the future, as they work toward completion of their space station by late 2022, could certainly face more criticism and more calls for responsible action if they don't make adjustments to the design of this Long March 5b rocket, which is basically designed to have this sort of uncontrolled re-entry, which could mean more scenarios like this in the coming months.

CURNOW: I want to talk about that more as well now. Will Ripley, thanks so much for that. Live in Hong Kong.


CURNOW: Moriba Jah is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and joins me now.

Great to have you on the show. Thanks for coming, sir.

So how irresponsible has this whole process been?

No matter where it landed, what does this tell you about the Chinese space program and its relationship with space, Earth, the planets?

MORIBA JAH, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AUSTIN: Yes. Look, I mean, I think the main issue that exists is that the rocket did not do a deorbiting burn, which would have forced it to come into the atmosphere at a much steeper angle, forcing it to burn up as much as possible. Leaving it up to Mother Nature to take care of it is probably not what we want to continue to do.

CURNOW: But this is part of the strategic planning of the Chinese space program.

So are we -- can we expect more of this as the space program develops?

JAH: I believe that, unless there's enough pressure from the global community when it comes to space sustainability and space safety, then this will become business as usual for sure.

CURNOW: And how bad do you think it could get?

JAH: Well, there is an increased activity of space launches and, in fact, just two weeks ago, we saw a Falcon 9 upper stage actually land and not too far from Seattle.


JAH: And even though it had the propulsion to do a deorbit burn, that failed because, statistically, things don't work all the time.

So I think we're going to see a lot more of these warnings being issued out, which is bad news.

CURNOW: So this is not then, in your opinion, just about China's space program.

Is it about, as you call it, space sustainability in terms of our relationship with what's going on in terms of the space race?

JAH: Exactly. I mean, pretty much any given nation state is free to launch as many things as it wants when it wants. And outer space is a finite resource, at least near-Earth space. And so with an exponential rise in launches from countries -- United States, China, others -- to follow, these things will just become more prevalent.

CURNOW: What can be done, then?

JAH: I think we need to have a candid conversation that this is not the way we want to do business in space. Clearly we're not going to stop launching satellites because the technology that space affords does have lots of benefits for humanity.

But just doing these things without planning and coordination, without some way to holistically manage this resource, I think, makes no sense.

CURNOW: Whose responsibility is it to have this conversation?


CURNOW: Because is it legislating from the U.N.?

Is it about bilateral treaties?

How do you actually then try and move this conversation forward?

Is it about naming and shaming?

What is it?

JAH: Right. Well, so it doesn't come from asking people, "pretty please with sugar on top." So I know that. I've tried that and it's not, you know, it's not been working. Certainly the United Nations, the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space does a lot of good work in trying to put together guidelines that could lead to long-term sustainability.

But these are not legally binding in and of themselves. So I think really what has to happen is that each country that signs up to these guidelines needs to make that space law within their own country and enforce these things and show they're enforcing these space laws and, at the same time, be able to again come to, I guess, a global table to plan, coordinate jointly and engage in these sorts of practices that could lead to enhanced sustainability and safety of space as a resource.

CURNOW: And then do you think it likely that at some point in the future one of these dead-heavy pieces of large machinery that's orbiting can cause damage here on Earth?

JAH: Absolutely. I think there's certainly a possibility. It's not zero. And the fact it's not zero is already a problem. The likelihood of any given object falling on a populated area, that might be low.

But when you -- statistically, when you have more of these things being launched more frequently, that has an impact as an aggregated, you know, sense. And so we are putting ourselves in harm's way the more frequently we launch these objects.

And the more these rockets aren't forced to, you know, burn up in the atmosphere, to come in at a steep angle when they re-enter, so we're going to just see more of these warnings, unfortunately. And, yes, there's a high possibility that there could be casualties at some point.

CURNOW: Moriba Jah, thank you very much for joining us.

JAH: Thank you.


CURNOW: And for more information on space, environmentalism and sustainability, you can check out Professor Jah's work on

India's COVID crisis is breaking global records every day. How some of India's hardest-hit regions are now once again locking down. The latest developments are just ahead on that.

Plus a troubling problem for California restaurant owners. Why they say they just can't expand services, despite coronavirus restrictions being lifted. That story's next as well.





CURNOW: Over the past four days, India's COVID crisis has run off the rails. A mind-boggling 1.6 million people have been infected just since last Thursday alone. That's more than 400,000 new infections per day. More than 22 million people have caught the virus since the pandemic began. They're just staggering numbers.

And for the second day in a row, the daily death toll has surpassed 4,000 souls. So numerous states across India now are about to impose new lockdowns, curfews or other restrictions as this crisis deepens yet. The central government has resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown.

And in hard-hit Delhi, the chief minister is begging for more vaccines. He says the supply will run out in less than a week. I want to go to Paula Hancocks. Paula is tracking all of these latest developments for us.

Paula, hi.

What can you tell us?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, those figures that you quote are truly horrifying. But also we are hearing from more and more officials and experts that that could actually be a conservative estimate when you consider those are really the people who have been tested or those that have been in hospital.

So the true figure could be far higher. Now we are hearing a lot more criticism over prime minister Modi's handling of this pandemic and by one medical journal, "The Lancet," which is quite -- it's not unprecedented but quite unusual to have such condemnation from a medical journal.

They say prime minister Modi and his government had squandered the early success they had in trying to keep the pandemic under control.


HANCOCKS: Also saying that, at times, the government seemed far more concerned with silencing critics and stopping criticism on Twitter than they did in actually trying to get a handle on the pandemic itself, saying that complacency did play a part and it was inexcusable.

There is a projection from "The Lancet," which certainly is of great concern, saying they believe they could see 1 million deaths by August. Now we are on less than a quarter of that at this point. Certainly there is a great concern as to when these figures are going to stop increasing, when the peak will be created.

"The Lancet" saying that, if that 1 million figure is in fact reached, then it will be -- show that the Modi government is responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe.

Now on top of that we're also seeing the supreme court deciding that they're going to have a task force -- or they've ordered a task force to be set up with government officials, with academics, with health officials, to decide where oxygen needs to be sent and make sure that it is, in fact, distributed in a fair and equitable fashion.

This has really been one of the limitations that we have seen in India, that -- we've seen many countries around the world bringing and sending, donating oxygen cylinders and the infrastructure to create more oxygen in order to help that shortfall.

But the distribution has fallen down. So now we are seeing the supreme court stepping in and saying there needs to be a task force to oversee that. Again, something that you would expect the government to be involved in or to be in charge of.

And as you say, we are starting to see states themselves bring their own lockdowns in. Last year back in March, it was a nationwide lockdown, which did have some critics as well as those who said it was the right thing to do. But now we're seeing it state by state. In fact, Delhi has just extended its lockdown for the third time -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Thank you for that. Paula Hancocks there. Thank you.

So the urgent process to get as many people vaccinated as possible worldwide is definitely not happening at the same tempo everywhere. You know that. I want to take you now around the globe for a look at how different countries are succeeding and in some cases falling short. Let's start with Canada.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Newton in Ottawa, where Canada says it's one of the first countries in the world to approve the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for children as young as 12.

This is literally the shot in the arm Canada needs to really ramp up its vaccination efforts. Health Canada says, in clinical trials, the vaccine was up to 100 percent effective in children and adolescents.

Interesting here as well that they say, look, the side effects are similar to those in adults -- sore arm, fever, chills. Now it's up to the provinces and territories to really roll this out. That won't happen for several weeks. But in the province of Alberta, parents can start signing up their children as early as Monday.



CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Cyril Vanier in London. The U.K.'s vaccination drive has been an unmitigated success; two-thirds of adults here have received at least one dose and a third are fully vaccinated already. The country is on track to give all adults at least one dose by July.

So how did the U.K. do so well?

Well, it's been a lot of foresight, great logistics and some luck. The government invested early in the AstraZeneca vaccine, approved it in record time, was very effective at scaling up the vaccination and prioritized first doses in the early days, giving more adults some immunity quickly.



BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The vaccine rollout here in Japan has been painfully slow. While many developed countries have higher levels of full vaccination, the U.S. is among the highest, with 32 percent.

Here in Japan, less than 1 percent of people have received two shots and only 22 percent of medical workers have been fully vaccinated. Japan's government maintains that the elderly will be vaccinated by July, just in time for the Olympics.

But many medical professionals find that timeline hard to believe. The reason, in part, has to do with slow vaccine approvals, chaotic sign- up and distribution, lack of vaccinators and a lack of supply.

Regarding the Olympics, medical professionals here in Japan continue to say that vaccines are the key to being able to hold a safe and secure games. But for now, while the International Olympic Committee encourages vaccinations for participants, they are not mandatory.


CURNOW: Well, here in the U.S., demand for vaccinations has been falling in recent weeks. The average daily doses has dropped below 2 million for the first time since early March. Now that's not stopping states from opening up as daily infections keep on decreasing.

California plans to reopen fully next month. But restaurants in Los Angeles are already facing a problem they didn't see coming. Paul Vercammen has the story. Paul.



PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Restaurant owners throughout Southern California are telling us they need to rehire or hire more employees. Here at AOC, a Los Angeles landmark, they can't even open up one of their dining rooms because they do not have enough workers.

And the owner here wants to open up some other restaurants. So in all, they need more than 100 workers.

CAROLINE STYNE, LOS ANGELES RESTAURATEUR: I think in total we need to hire about 250 people. And I know that we're not alone in this. Other restaurateurs are having this issue. A lot of job sectors are seeing this. But ours is being hit particularly bad.

VERCAMMEN: And this restaurant, AOC, L.A. icon, pretty good-paying jobs, I know you had a manager that was getting paid $75,000 a year. But the pandemic hit. And tell us what happened to that manager as a consequence of not having a job.

STYNE: Oh, yes. It's so expensive to live here in L.A. that she and her husband and their 1-year-old son, they decided to move to Bend, Oregon, where they could afford to live, with this uncertainty about their financial future.

And they have family there. And this is a story that we have across the board, with so many employees who have left. They've just left the state. It's too expensive. And without a job and without prospects, they just had to take off.

VERCAMMEN: Now while some restaurant owners in Southern California have been very critical of Governor Newsom and all of his social distancing and lockdown policies, Styne is not. She says California would not be where it is now in terms of its low positivity rate if it wasn't for a serious lockdown.

She just says now they need to look forward, try to get people back to work. If they can put the restaurant workers back on the job, then that, in turn, will spark the rest of the economy -- reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen, now back to you.


CURNOW: Thanks, Paul, for that.

So after a strict pandemic lockdown the Big Apple is hoping to get back to normal life and that includes attracting tourists to New York's Times Square. But on Saturday evening, the famous destination became a crime scene. The New York Police Department says three innocent bystanders were shot, one being a 4-year-old girl. Take a look.


DERMOT SHEA, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: We have a female Hispanic, 4 years old, from Brooklyn, shot in the leg and expected to undergo surgery at Bellevue Hospital.

We have a 23-year-old female tourist from Rhode Island, here today to New York City, first to visit the Statue of Liberty, which was closed or not available at the time they got the tickets and decided to come to Times Square and enjoy the sights.

And last, we have a 43-year-old female Hispanic from New Jersey.

What we know right now is we have a dispute that erupted between two to four individuals, males. We have a picture of one person of interest that we have put out on NYPD News on our Twitter page as well as a video. If you go there, you will see it.

We are asking anyone with any information of what transpired here today to please call our Crimestoppers hotline.


CURNOW: And this is the video of the suspect on the NYPD website, posted to their official Twitter feed.

And also we are following on CNN Russia, celebrating 76 years since Nazi Germany surrendered. It's rolling out its military on Moscow's Red Square for a traditional parade, all against the backdrop of testy relations with the West.

Plus, British prime minister Boris Johnson is now having to deal with a pro-independence majority in Scotland's Parliament.

What does this mean for the future of the U.K.?

We ask that question next.





CURNOW: Welcome back to all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world, thanks so much for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Now Moscow is celebrating Victory Day with its traditional military parade.


CURNOW: Take a look at these images coming out of Moscow. This year marks 76 years since the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany in World War II. The parade shows off Russia's troops, military vehicles and aircraft.

And president Vladimir Putin is in attendance, as you can see here.


CURNOW: Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow and has been watching these images and continues to do so.

Talk us through what has taken place and what's going to happen.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Robyn. It is a gigantic parade as, of course, it is every year, where Russia shows off its military might and, of course, also the fact that Russia and the Soviet Union, as a whole, made a gigantic contribution to defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.

Obviously a day really of -- celebrated as a day of glory here in Russia every year. And I think, this year, this parade is exceptionally important, not just to those in power but certainly also to a lot of folks here in Russia because, quite frankly, last year, on the 9th of May the parade for the 75th anniversary, couldn't take place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But now as you can see here on our screens, we can see the troops marching past Vladimir Putin, who's obviously watching all of this very closely. And a full array of dignitaries who are in attendance.

Also, of course, a lot of World War II veterans from the Soviet Union also in attendance as well. Vladimir Putin greeted them and then said that the Russian nation will forever remember their sacrifices, be proud of their sacrifices and be humbled by their sacrifices.

So certainly, it's a very important day, as it is every year for Russia. But this one even more so because, of course, last year it was so difficult to get that parade off the ground. It actually happened later in the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The country was on full lockdown in May.

But now you can see events there in full swing. And the other thing, Robyn, that, of course, this year is very important is this parade and this day for Russia comes at a time when we do see those rising tensions with the West.

We've seen some of the things that have happened over the past months, as Russia pulled a lot of troops together at the southern border of Ukraine. There's been, of course, standoffs with the Biden administration, diplomats being sent out of the country on both sides and also between Russia and European countries.

So you do see those heightened tensions. At the same time, Russia obviously demonstrating the power of its military and, of course, very much also the history of this nation, all the nations of the former Soviet Union and just that military power as well, Robyn.

CURNOW: And what is interesting, when you talk about these rising tensions between the West and Russia, is that many security experts here believe that Russia's main threat is asymmetric, is related to cybersecurity.

It's not about boots on the ground, which we're seeing here now, despite, of course, the fact we saw those threats on the border of Ukraine the last few weeks.


CURNOW: How do you think these images will be taken in capitals around the world?

PLEITGEN: I mean, obviously one of the things we have to keep in mind is these images, I think in capitals around the world, in the United States, also in Europe as well, I don't think that they'll be seen as a threat because, first of all, it's something these nations see every year. And then, second of all, also because the Soviet Union did make that

very, very large contribution to defeating Nazi Germany. We have to remember that it was obviously Soviet troops who marched all the way to Berlin and some of those very gigantic battles World War II like Kursk, like Stalingrad, those really did a lot to turn the tide in World War II.

But at the same time, I think you're absolutely right. You do have that asymmetrical threat that the United States has been talking about, as far as cybersecurity is concerned, cyberattacks are concerned.

Remember, of course, the SolarWinds attack that caused a lot of problems between the U.S. and Russia, where you had the Biden administration really taking some pretty tough action.

But at the same time, I think one of the things that the Biden administration's been talking about -- and many international leaders have been talking about -- is that you do see the Russian military also get more powerful in many ways.

You obviously had those -- some estimate more than 100,000 troops at the border with Ukraine, moving there very clearly, clearly perceived as a threat, even though the Russians said those were just exercises and nobody should be alarmed by it.

You also have a big Russian military build-up in the Arctic, Arctic bases that are being expanded and being made more potent as well. Large parts of the Russian Arctic fleet also having become more powerful over the last couple of years as well.

And it was quite interesting. Vladimir Putin held a speech at the beginning, as he always does, at the beginning of this parade, where he did talk about the fight that the Russians had, the Soviet Union had against invaders.

And then talked about countries trying to do something similar again. So you do see that standoff does continue and that there is really that air of tension also on this day as well, Robyn.

CURNOW: So very symbolic images that are relevant today, as much perhaps as they were 76 years ago. Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much for bringing us the story and these images. Thank you.

Nicola Sturgeon's party has come out on top in Scotland's parliamentary election even though the Scottish National Party is one seat short of an outright majority. It picked up an extra one compared to 2016 and, together with the Scottish Greens, there is now a pro- independence majority.

Nicola Sturgeon is promising another referendum, independence referendum, and is warning prime minister Boris Johnson not to stand in the way.

And then sticking with U.K. politics, Sadiq Khan has won his second term as the mayor of London. The Labour incumbent defeated his closest rival by more than 200,000 votes. Scott McLean is in London with that.

Scott, hi. Good to see you.

What more can you tell us?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Robyn, yes. Sadiq Khan is from the left-leaning Labour Party. He's also a guy who rose to prominence not just here in London, not just nationally, but really around the world back in 2017, thanks to his very public spats with then U.S. President Donald Trump.

He won re-election in this city but not by the kind of margins that were initially predicted. Some polls were showing him winning an outright majority on the first ballot. That didn't happen. Things were much closer than expected.

His conservative opponent, Shawn Bailey (ph), ran a much better race than I think many had thought he would. So things were closer than expected.

He promised to bridge the gap between the classes in this city, acknowledging the sort of culture wars that have been going on, acknowledging the divisions in the country, more broadly thanks to Brexit.

But his lackluster victory is really a sign of a larger trend that we saw across the U.K. in these local elections, where the Labour Party had really lost a lot of ground to the Conservative Party. They even managed to lose the one federal seat that was up for a by-election they had held on to for decades.

If you read the commentary in the British press, Robyn, it's almost like deja vu. It reads very similar to the kind of stuff we were hearing after the 2019 federal election, where Boris Johnson won a majority mandate.

Complaints that this Labour Party has lost touch with its traditional base of support and has, instead, become this party that caters to big-city elites and the very, very poor.

CURNOW: And while that is happening there in the south, Scotland has also had a pretty consequential election. And I mean consequential for the whole of the U.K. and the actual existence of it. Just talk us through what we're seeing there in terms of trends.

MCLEAN: Sure. So yes, Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party was one seat short of an outright majority -- and I should say, in Scotland's system, a rather confusing system of proportional representation, it is very, very difficult for any party to do that.

But the real story is, the kingmaker in Scotland right now is actually the Green Party, which is also a pro-independence party.


MCLEAN: So when you tally up all the pro-independence MSPs, you have a very clear majority. So will there be a referendum on Scottish independence?

It's a difficult question. The short answer is probably not anytime soon. And that is because the decision around Scottish independence, that's a decision to be made by lawmakers in Westminster, in London, the entire U.K. parliament.

And prime minister Boris Johnson has made very, very clear over the last few years that that is simply not something that he's interested in doing.

So what are the options for these pro-independence leaders in Scotland?

Well, they could hold a referendum or vote to hold a referendum in the Scottish parliament and wait for the legal challenges to come in. They could hold an unauthorized wildcat referendum in which case, well, it might not be legally binding. It might not be internationally recognized.

But just this morning the leader of the Scottish Greens said that -- seemed to indicate they wouldn't support something like that, saying that any referendum that would be held, they would want to make sure it was legally binding and, obviously, internationally recognized.

So the road to Scottish independence is still a pretty long one, despite the results, Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much for that. Scott McLean in London. Good to see you. Thank you.

So coming up on CNN, a gruesome attack on a school in Afghanistan is horrifying the world and it is also raising questions about how safe the country will be for women and girls once the U.S. leaves.




CURNOW: Explosions outside a girls' high school in Afghanistan on Saturday killed over 50 people and injured more than 100. The majority of the victims are reportedly students.

Authorities say the blasts were caused by a car bomb and two improvised explosive devices. Now the Taliban has denied involvement in the attack but it raises more concerns about Afghanistan's future once the U.S. leaves. Nick Paton Walsh has more.



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: This horrifying attack occurring in the west of Kabul outside Sayed Ul-Shuhada school, it appears from accounts on the scene that many of the victims were in fact school girls, leaving at the end of the school day. Aftermath pictures showing a vehicle heavily damaged.

It was probably the source of the explosion. And pictures of people picking through the school bags and schoolbooks of the victims. Dozens injured, dozens having lost their lives.

WALSH (voice-over): The blast having occurred on the holiest day of the Muslim month of Ramadan and in an area of Kabul predominately occupied by the Shia minority, often been targeted in the past by extremists and there could be two possible reasons why this particular target was chosen.

Firstly, many extremists find the idea of girls going to school to be abhorrent. It's not tolerated in many parts of Afghanistan, where the Afghan government does not have reach and insurgents have control and also, too, the Shia minority are considered a target by many extreme groups, specifically the branch of ISIS that functions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban insurgency clearly said that they were not involved in this attack. But their one tweet does not necessarily speak for many different branches of the insurgency. Some increasingly hardline extremists.

This attack does speak to the growing security vacuum that many feel will get worse as the U.S. continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan. It started May 1st, it's already underway and it will be done by September 11th, if not significantly before.

That leaves the Afghan government facing pressure from the insurgency on many different fronts. Kabul will likely be secure for the months ahead but is, of course, vulnerable to attacks like this. Devastating attacks over the past year have been sadly common in other parts of Afghanistan as well.

But they may be receiving greater attention from the outside international community. Shocking, frankly, scenes that what the U.S. charge d'affaires to Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, called the future of Afghanistan, in what he referred to as this unforgivable attack. Really horrifying scenes of exactly what kind of extremism could be inside Afghanistan and at the insecurity of the months ahead -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


CURNOW: Well, I asked Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center about this and this is what he had to say.


MICHAEL KUGELMAN, WILSON CENTER: This is going to -- only going to become worse.

As bad as it's been, now U.S. forces are on their way out of the country. And even with U.S. boots on the ground in recent years, there have been record level -- a record number of civilian fatalities in Afghanistan. And yet with U.S. troops on their way out, that means that Afghan

security forces will not be getting the training, the advising and the various types of assistance, including counterterrorism assistance, that U.S. forces have provided.

So this suggests that a country that is already suffering from significant levels of destabilization, terrorism, violence, it could very well get worse in the absence of a peace process, that is right now very, very fragile.


CURNOW: Michael Kugelman there with the Wilson Center.

Now a state of emergency extended in Japan as COVID cases spike. But the Olympics are still planned to go on. Later we talk to one paralympian, willing to risk her life to compete.





CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So the Olympic torch is heading to Tokyo after completing its journey through Nagasaki on Saturday. But with less than three months to the beginning of the Olympics, there are growing calls to cancel the games.

Japan extended a state of emergency in Tokyo due to a surge in COVID cases. More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition to have the Olympics canceled.

Now despite the growing number of cases, Japan's prime minister says the games are still on and athletes say they are risking their lives by participating. But Selina Wang has the story of a paralympian hoping to compete in her fifth games.


KIMIE BESSHO, PARALYMPIAN: (Speaking foreign language).

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is a paralympic legend, known as the Butterfly Lady, 73-year-old Kimie Bessho, donning her trademark hair clips for every match. She is aiming to be in her fifth Summer Games, a competition, she says, she is risking her life for.

WANG: How are you feeling amid the uncertainty of the games and this pandemic?

"I am prepared to die under these circumstances," she tells me. But I don't want to die of COVID. If I die, I want to die in competition, after a winning smash.

Bessho, like the thousands of Olympic hopefuls around the world, is training constantly, despite mounting anxiety. She's been unable to get vaccinated, amid a fourth wave of COVID cases in Japan. She doesn't even know yet if she can be in the Paralympics. Qualifiers are weeks away, in Slovenia.

"Vaccinations are unbelievably slow here," she tells me. "I called the health center and health ministry, many times, asking on what goes on with the vaccines."


WANG (voice-over): Bessho says she is unable to get vaccinated before her qualifiers and she is scared to go on an international trip. Even though the games are just months away, Japan has only fully vaccinated less than 1 percent of its population, drastically behind other developed countries.

Just 0.1 percent of senior citizens have had a single dose. 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.


WANG (voice-over): The prime minister has declared another state of emergency in several prefectures, as Japan reports thousands of new cases per day, driven by more contagious variants.

Compare that to last March, when the games were postponed and the country was reporting less than 100 cases per day. Experts say the games could turn into a superspreader event.

Even one of the highest-ranking members in Japan's ruling party said this month, cancellation remained an option.

But Bessho is no stranger to adversity. She played sports as a child, volleyball, track and skiing. When she was 38, her husband fell ill and died. She was diagnosed with cancer 2 years after. And the operation to get rid of the cancer left her paralyzed. The doctor said she would only have 3 years to live.

"At the time, I wanted to end my life. I couldn't do anything myself," she tells me. "I became disabled but I was also given a great gift, to play wheelchair table tennis."

She started the sport at age 45 and, by 56, she was in her first Paralympic Games. But after the fourth Paralympics, she suffered another setback. She was injured in two severe car accidents.

"I have been through so many hard times but I am mentally strong and I have a fighting spirit in me," she tells me. "No matter how old I, am I will still beat the younger players."

She says she will fly through the Paralympics just like a butterfly -- Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Just the story we need. Wonderful to see that.

Thank you. I'm Robyn Curnow. You can follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @RobynCurnowCNN. I'm going to hand you over to Kim, who picks things up now. More on CNN after the break.