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Sudan's Omar al-Bashir ousted; Julian Assange Arrested; Former Pope Benedict XVI Breaks His Silence; U.S. & South Korea Hold Talks on North Korea Negotiations; Israeli Spacecraft Crashes on Lunar Surface; Millions Casting Ballots in India; Turning Britain's Political Tragicomedy into Art. Aired 12p-1a ET
Aired April 12, 2019 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no one in this country that is above the law.
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JOHN VAUSE, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Now comes the messy transatlantic legal battle over WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange who was dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after his almost seven-year-long asylum was revoked.
Sudan's Dictator Omar al Bashir overthrown and forced but his regime remains and so do the protestors, staying on the streets and defying a nighttime curfew imposed by their new but old military rulers.
Plus, a shot to the moon, details about the crash of the first privately-funded lunar mission.
Hello. Welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, wherever you are. It's great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
One of the big unanswered questions, one of the big mysteries over the past few years has been how much longer will Julian Assange stay in that small room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London? The answer came Thursday when the founder of WikiLeaks was hauled out of his self- reposed exile where he had been hiding in plain asylum protected sight.
His stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy costing that government more than $6 million. And when he appeared in court, the judge called Assange a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest. He was found guilty of breaking his bail conditions and faces up to a year in jail but that may be only the start of his legal problems.
CNN's Jessica Snyder reports.
JESSICA SNYDER, CONTRIBUTOR: Julian Assange is detained after being dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy by British police. The now long bearded WikiLeaks founder shouted before being stuffed into a police van. He's been hold up in the embassy for nearly seven years and he now faces extradition to the U.S. on one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
The single charge has been sealed for more than a year but it revolves around WikiLeaks' publishing nearly a million documents in 2010, including classified material about America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and secret state department cables. Assange's attorneys insist he's always acted as a journalist and is protected under the First Amendment.
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JENNIFER ROBINSON, LAWYER TO JULIAN ASSANGE: This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States.
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SNYDER: But federal prosecutors say Assange broke the law when he conspired with then-U.S. Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning who is now in jail to crack a government password and steal the classified documents.
U.S. officials have said the leaks created a serious national security risk, in part because the leaked documents exposed details about a 2007 U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed journalists and civilians.
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SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC): Julian Assange has put American lives at risk and it's a fair, legal process but one that judges him based upon the national security breaches that happened in this country.
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SNYDER: So far, Assange is not charged for WikiLeaks' role in the Russian hack of thousands of Democratic and Clinton campaign e-mails that were posted on WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.
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JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: We have more material related to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
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SNYDER: But a U.S. official tells CNN more charges against Assange are expected.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SNYDER: The president praised WikiLeaks as it dropped the stolen e- mails during the campaign. Roger Stone, a former advisor to Trump, was indicted in January for lying about seeking out the stolen e-mails from WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange.
Assange's arrest comes after his bizarre behavior prompted Ecuador to end his asylum at the embassy. Ecuador's interior minister said Assange spread feces on the walls inside and believed his physical and mental health were deteriorating.
Jessica Snyder, CNN Washington.
VAUSE: Joining us now from San Diego is Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney, and former deputy assistant attorney general. Harry, thank you for being with us.
HARRY LITMAN: Thanks for having me, John.
VAUSE: We heard from one of Assange's lawyers a few hours ago again pushing this argument that Assange and WikiLeaks have done nothing wrong. It's just like any other media organization trying to get the truth out. Listen to this.
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KRISTINN HRAFNSSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, WIKILEAKS: It's simply is all that the organization that WikiLeaks published information pertaining to the upcoming election. It's the primary duty of every journalist to do. It would have been a journalistic crime not to publish the information.
Whatever the outcome, whatever feelings people may have toward the parties or party involved, that is just simply the basis of the entire thing. That's what should be in the main focus in the journalistic world. It's simply journalism.
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VAUSE: And the Democratic Presidential Candidate, [00:05:00] Tulsi Gabbard, has warned in a tweet that the arrest of Assange was meant to send a warning to journalists to be quiet, to toe the line. But what's intrigued federal authorities have charged Assange under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act which is a very vague one size fits all approach for misconduct online.
In the case of Assange, it's alleged he conspired to break into a government computer trying to break the password. There's nothing in the indictment which shows whether or not Assange is a journalist, whether he's considered a journalist.
Does that mean the Justice Department sees merit in what Assange and WikiLeaks are claiming that they're in fact journalists or is it just simply an argument they would rather not have? HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think as between the two, John, it's an argument they would rather not have. But everyone has been focused on this. From day one, Assange has sort of wrapped himself in the free press flag. He'll continue to do it and I think it was a very deliberate decision by the Department of Justice to steer well clear of it.
It was a decision that was greeted with some relief in the United States even among people who are dubious about Assange and dubious about his claims that he's just another journalist. There's a real argument you could have on the merits that he's not.
But the U.S. wanted to steer clear of any such argument and just focus on, I wouldn't say such a (INAUDIBLE) conduct. He and Manning conspired in the indictment to break the secret code of a computer. That would be a crime whether you're a journalist or a hacker or a fun lover or an enemy. It's that conduct and it really is a very studied way in the indictment something entirely separate from journalistic activity.
VAUSE: It's interesting because Assange's lawyers actually want to try and take that and move it back into the journalistic sphere. One of the lawyers, Barry Pollack, he issued a statement which read in part the factual allegations boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source.
It seems a big stretch to say encouraging Chelsea Manning to break into a government computer, to get into the password, and access all those secrets is the same thing as encouraging a source to give over information. Those two things seem completely unrelated.
LITMAN: It's a lot of boiling down as Barry Pollack would try to have it. It doesn't boil down to that at all and he very noticeably avoided saying what the charge actually is.
So that's going to be the point that the -- for Assange's defenders. OK, we know what it says on paper but here's what it's really about. It's really about his being a journalist who is opposed to the United States. That's in the grand tradition of the free press whom you want to protect the most. And that's what it's "really about".
Of course, it's not. And when you go to court, it will be quite clear when there's a jury there, here's what we have to prove, here's what we have proven. And in fact, it might even be that Assange isn't even permitted to introduce some of the First Amendment defenses because, as you say, if everything had stopped just after he acquired the password, it would still be a crime. It really is irrelevant that he is a sort of self-defined swashbuckling hero journalist. That's got nothing to do with the conduct that United States Alleged.
Now, there's going to be possibly more crimes charged. They will likely also avoid anything about free press and free expression and tact very carefully to the security problems that Assange is charged within this so-called 10:30 charge, this conspiracy with Manning to break a secret password. VAUSE: It seems to be that there has been this debate which has been ongoing within the U.S. government, whether or not to arrest Assange. On Thursday, President Trump weighed in on that. He was asked about Assange's arrest. This is what he said.
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TRUMP: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing and I know nothing really about him. It's not my deal in life.
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VAUSE: Yes, except it is. He knows plenty about WikiLeaks. Listen to this.
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TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks. This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable.
Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.
Well, I love reading those WikiLeaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes. it is what it is. The Russia investigation is closed but there are all still these unanswered questions about Assange and WikiLeaks. Russia used them according to intelligence both as a way -- both Assange and WikiLeaks as a way of releasing these stolen [00:10:00] e-mails from the Clinton campaign.
So what are the chances here that Assange can now face questioning and maybe even charges on that front? I guess if there was enough evidence of wrongdoing, he would have been indicted when the Mueller probe was handed in.
LITMAN: Maybe. Look, the Mueller probe is completed but that doesn't mean that everything here is complete. There is a pending counterintelligence investigation. There are other cases that were offshoots of the Mueller probe.
Roger Stone is under indictment and that case is going to go forward. He essentially is alleged to have conspired with WikiLeaks and to have known about the discharge of their hacked e-mails. And we sort of stopped at the final step to know whether or not he had spoken with the president. But that's a very live issue.
And in fact, there's a flip side here. It's possible that in addition to playing the First Amendment free press card, Assange will try to sort of tie up his case with national security information to make it difficult for the U.S. to go forward without revealing classified information.
Sometimes defendants will try that as well but the possibility that even though the Mueller probe is finished, the extent parts of the probe that have gone out to other places, especially the Roger Stone case will still delve into Assange's conduct with people in the United States.
VAUSE: Harry, we're out of time but I just want to very quickly show you some of the high profile visitors who turned up to that small room in the Ecuadorian Embassy. There was Pamela Anderson of Baywatch Fame and vegan sandwiches. We had Lady Gaga turning up. That was back in 2012 I think.
We had Noam Chomsky there sharing his wisdom with Julian Assange. Also at one point, Manchester United Eric Cantona was giving him a couple of workout lessons here. It's amazing to think that there were 24/7 British police outside of that coastal bridge, taxpayer of 13 million pounds. His stay at the embassy cost Ecuador $6 million. It's been a costly seven years, right.
LITMAN: Yes, it has and a strange one also.
VAUSE: Yes, bizarre indeed. Harry, thank you. Good to see you.
LITMAN: Thanks for having me.
VAUSE: Well, Sudan is facing an uncertain future after its long-time Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a coup and a military council has taken over. Thousands of protestors were demanding he step down.
Well, activists say they will not rest until the military now hands over power to a civilian government and they plan to keep the demonstrations going until that happens. For 30 years, the Sudanese people lived under the rule of a president accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
CNN's Farai Sevenzo has the very latest.
FARAI SEVENZO, CONTRIBUTOR: April 12, 2019, was the day that Sudanese will remember for a long time. It's the day that Omar al-Bashir, their ruler, their dictator, their president for three decades finally was forced to give up power. All morning, people in Sudan had been celebrating this news until the military council made an official announcement on their state television and media outlets.
They announced that there would be a two-year period of a military transitional government. They also announced three months of an extended state of emergency and a month of a curfew from 10:00 at night to 4:00 in the morning.
This, of course, completely changed the mood in Khartoum because the people were saying no, we got rid of one feat. Now, you have given us another, you will go the same way. All through the night and all through this evening, Khartoum people are all very disappointed with the outcome because they have given up one soldier president and put in place more military people.
Even the Sudanese Professional Association, the whole body of doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, and even journalists are calling on people of Sudan to stay at the military headquarters until their demands are met. And what is this demand? They desperately want a change from the military to a civilian rule.
Now, whether they'll get that or not is another question but certainly, Omar al-Bashir's departure has left more questions than is answered.
Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi.
VAUSE: You're watching now for more on the political upheaval in Sudan. Joining us is Mohamed Abubakr, president of the African Middle Eastern Leadership Project.
So, Mohamed, it seems this was a popular uprising which was snatched away at the last minute by essentially a military coup. The end result is that a brutal ruthless dictator has been replaced by that brutal ruthless dictator's close confidant.
And already General Ibn Auf wants to suspend the constitution, dissolve parliament, impose a curfew. Also, it's a two-year transition period of which will have military rule. What are the chances the good general has actually zero intentions of handing over power?
MOHAMED ABUBAKR, PRESIDENT, AFRICAN MIDDLE EASTERN LEADERSHIP PROJECT: This has been a step that [00:15:00] has been expected by the young people protestants in Sudan. They knew this step is likely to happen and they were prepared for it for the most part.
And the response of the young people who are now in the streets despite the curfew is the biggest testament to their principled and to their dedication to get into a civil transitional interim government that would oversee the democratic transition in Sudan. I don't think they will settle for anything less than that.
VAUSE: OK. So you said there were ready for it. Protest leaders have been urging civil disobedience. They want to be able to defy that 10:00 p.m. curfew for example.
In one tweet, they called on demonstrators to rally in the yard of the sit-in which is a reference to the military's headquarters and stay there and secure the barricades and prepare for Friday prayers. They have also been chanting, "It fell once, it can fall again." And by it, they mean the regime.
But now, you have this new military strong montage. He may not go quite quietly. In fact, he may not have plans to go anywhere at all. So where does this all end up? Does it end up in bloodshed?
ABUBAKR: We can only hope that that's not going to be the case. The young people have been quite martins strategic who have been leading this uprising from day one and have been quite successful in avoiding bloodshed at all costs.
And the way I think this will actually go, they will continue to protest and continue to stop life as usual in Sudan until this new, even off this new so-called president steps down. This step I think is actually likely to happen and even less of a challenge than al- Bashir stepping down because he has less things to lose. I think if the pressure is right and the conditions are right, I think they will have to hand power back to the people.
VAUSE: What's interesting is that for the first time in 30 years, Sudan is not ruled by Omar al-Bashir. He seeds power in a military coup 30 years ago. He is the only sitting leader ever to be indicted by the National Criminal Court, three counts of genocide in Darfur as well as crimes against humanity, use of barrel bombs and he presided over in the civil war itself to these rebels.
He is Osama bin Laden's friend. He gave him a place to stay. And during this four-month long protests, his security forces have been accused of torturing, killing, and jailing protestors.
And the only thing known about his whereabouts at this moment is that we're told he is in a safe place. Does it look to you like he cut a deal with the military?
ABUBAKR: That is the general suspicion. But to the people in the streets right now, it doesn't really matter if it was a show raid or not. Military rule is rejected as a whole. And whether it's a show raid or not, it's not going to work on people and that is is the message that I would love to get across.
These young people are not going back home. They are not settling for a half victory and they will not yield until a civil government is handed the power to oversee the democratic transition.
VAUSE: I just want to follow up because you said it doesn't really matter if Bashir left in some kind of deal, or if he cut a deal, or whether he kind of left, he was forced out. All that matters to these protesters is the fact that he's gone.
Do they not want him to be held accountable for the crimes against humanity, everything he has done to the country over the last 30 years?
ABUBAKR: Actually, the order of priority of demands they put forward is quite elegant. And it puts transitional justice as a secondary demand that will only come in the light of a military -- of a civil government in the transition period.
And that clear order is what makes the deal or no deal actually an irrelevant conversation right now in mood point. All they are focusing on right now is the fact that they don't want any form of military government taking charge of the country.
And that priority and that set and clear vision for where they want is actually quite impressive. And it really shows dedication to the values they have set forth from day one.
VAUSE: So what you're saying is that they're in it for the long haul and this ain't over yet by a long shot I guess.
VAUSE: Mohamed, thank you.
ABUBAKR: Thank you.
VAUSE: Thanks for being here. Good to see you.
ABUBAKR: Thank you for having me.
VAUSE: Still to come here, when he announced his plans to retire, Pope Benedict promised to remain silent but now he's made his first public comment in six years (INAUDIBLE) on the clerical sexual abuse crisis.
[00:20:00] Also ahead, Venezuela is set to have the world's biggest oil reserves. So with so much oil, why are the country's shells all empty? Why is there nothing to eat and no toilet paper? CNN travels to Venezuela's oil region in search of answers.
VAUSE: Former Pope Benedict XVI has made his first public comments, known to be taking a very different stand from the current Pope on the causes of the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. In an essay, he blames the scandal on teachings in the clergy, as well as the sexual revolution of the 1960s. That contradicts to Pope Francis' two-fold church culture which puts priests above ordinary Catholics.
Dellia Gallagher reports now from Rome.
DELLIA GALLAGHER, CORRESPONDENT: It's rare to hear from retired Pope Benedict XVI as one of the things that makes this essay interesting. The other is his take on the causes of the sexual abuse scandal which he says are linked to the sexual revolution of the 1960s which he blames for allowing pedophilia to be considered appropriate.
Those suicidal changes together with the loss of religious belief, the former Pope writes, also effected seminaries and church leaders who rejected traditional Catholic teaching on sexuality. He mentions homosexual clicks and pornography in seminaries.
CNN's Vatican analyst John Allen says the essay is already causing quite a stir.
JOHN ALLEN, SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Catholic social media is absolutely blowing up over this. Conservatives feel triumphal indicated. This is exactly what they have been waiting to hear. Liberals, on the other hand, find what Pope Benedict said divisive and embarrassing particularly because Benedict appears to propagate the idea of a link between clergy sex abuse and homosexuality which efficiently at least is something the church has been trying to walk away from.
GALLAGHER: Pope Benedict also outlines the conflict between the Vatican and U.S. church leaders over how to handle allegations of sexual abuse. And the pope who published this essay in a German Magazine for priests says he contacted Pope Francis before publishing. So it's an essay likely to cause even more debate about the sexual abuse crisis. Pope Benedict writes that he hopes it will help contribute to a new beginning.
Dellia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.
VAUSE: Author and CNN commentator Father Edward Beck will join us next hour to discuss Benedict's essay which he says [00:25:00] has very faulty reasoning and then some.
Well, the U.S. would like to see Nicholas Maduro leave Venezuela's presidential palace. It's urging the United Nations to recognize Juan Guaido as the country's leader. And to make this happen, the USS hold an input, although (INAUDIBLE) main's source of revenue and that would be oil.
CNN traveled to Western Venezuela to visit the heart of oil country. Once a thriving region, its rigs are now in shambles.
CNN's David McKenzie spoke to some oil workers, brings us their stories.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CONTRIBUTOR: Venezuelan oil workers giving us a rare look inside their crumbling industry. They brought us to La Salina's oil fields. It's risky speaking out, they could be fired or detained by Venezuelan intelligence but they want the truth to get out.
Populism finished all of this, he says. Do you see this? Nothing works anymore. The government finished us completely. They say successive Venezuelan regimes use state oil company, PDVSA, as a slush fund for socialist programs and their own personal gain.
This entire coastline is just covered in oil sludge. The regime blames the collapse of the oil industry on the U.S. but it's been collapsing for years. Trump administration sanctions could make it worse.
The U.S. was PDVSA's biggest customer. In March, the U.S. bought zero barrels of oil. The first time since the 70s.
And the retired oil workers that helped build this company say they gave decades of their lives for almost nothing. Some say they're forced to eat dog food. They say their pensions worth around $5 a month, "It's outrageous, outrageous. Look at us," he says.
We don't have money for medication, for food. Soon, we'll have to bring our dead colleagues to this protest." "Normal? Well normal if you're living in this country," he says.
I want America to take out Maduro, to take him out of here. He says he's stealing from the people. He's taking food from us while they're taking for themselves.
Last week, loses ransacked this pharmacy looking for medicine. In nearby Maracaibo, a mob spent two days tearing the hotel apart, even ripped out the carpets. The true scale of Venezuela's crisis becomes clear when the sun sets. Business leaders say it's like "The walking dead." A zombie economy with 80 percent of businesses closed here and this energy-rich region, people are left to shelter in their homes in darkness.
David McKenzie, CNN, Maracaibo, Venezuela.
VAUSE: A lightning-fast visit to the White House by South Korea's president but will it be enough to jumpstart denuclearization between U.S. and North Korea. A live report in a moment.
Also, Israel came just so close to joining the exclusive club, landing a spacecraft on the moon that just didn't get there. We'll tell you what went wrong when we come back.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update of the top stories this hour.
[00:30:42] WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange taken into custody in London on Thursday. He resisted arrest and was carried out of the Ecuadoran embassy, where he spent the past seven years in self-imposed exile. A British judge found him guilty of violating bail. Assange now faces possible extradition to the United States on one count of conspiring to steal military secrets.
Protestors in Sudan are urging anti-government demonstrators to stay in the streets, even after the ouster of longtime dictator Omar al- Bashir. The military is now in control, and protestors want them to step aside and allow a new civilian government to take control.
The U.S. president has hinted he's open to a third summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, but it's now up to Kim. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea met with Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday to try and restart those stalled nuclear talks.
Earlier this week the North Koreans warned it would deal a telling blow to hostile forces who think sanctions can cripple the country. The U.S. president seems unmoved by that, saying he's happy to keep sanctions in place, because they're at a, quote, "fair level."
CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea, watching all this for us.
I guess, Paula, if nothing else, this visit by Moon Jae-in shows that the North Korean leader, he's still on their radar. You know, it's still an important issue. They're still talking about it and may discourage him from taking other measures to seek attention, maybe like a nuclear test or a missile test.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, what they decided at this meeting as they were talking from the readouts we received afterwards was that both leaders believed that North Korea was not going to revert back to nuclear activity, that they did believe he was going to keep on this -- this economic path that he said that he wants. That they also agreed that the top-down approach, which is effectively
the leaders meeting and trying to decide things amongst themselves, rather than the working-level talks, is the right way to go.
We did hear from the president, as well, of South Korea, through his people, that he is going to, once he gets back here to Seoul, try and have another summit with -- with Kim Jong-un.
And the reason for this is he's going to try and talk to the North Korean leader and then pave the way for a third U.S.-North Korean summit.
But there was an acknowledgment from President Trump that this is very much in Kim Jong-un's court. He is the one who can decide which direction this goes in now.
But there was a sign that the U.S. and South Korea were not completely on the same page. We've heard from the South Koreans that they just want the momentum to keep going. A small deal is not a bad deal in their eyes.
But President Trump once again saying he wants the big deal. He wants complete denuclearization and then others -- other things like lifting sanctions will follow. Although he did suggest there's a little bit of wiggle room there -- John.
VAUSE: There's always a little bit of wiggle room, it seems.
Paula, thank you. Good to see you. Paula Hancocks there, live in Seoul.
Well, as the saying goes, better to have tried and failed than never have tried at all. An Israeli spacecraft made it tantalizingly close to landing on the Moon, only to crash just as it was about to touchdown.
CNN's Oren Liebermann reports on what was a daring attempt.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Moments before the Israeli spacecraft called Beresheet was supposed to land on the moon, the team in the control room in Israel lost communications with the craft.
At the same time, it was experiencing issues with its main engine. The $100 million privately-funded spacecraft was well into its landing sequence, traveling at more than 2,100 miles per hour, about 75 miles from its intended landing site, according to the telemetry data being fed in live, and the problems began and escalated quickly.
There was a moment of silence in the control room. Then one of those monitoring the landing sequence said, "There's a suspicion that we didn't land on the moon in the best fashion. We're trying to clarify the matter." Just a short time later, one of the team leaders said, "I'm sorry to say we didn't make it to the moon in one piece." Beresheet spacecraft had crashed.
Trying to put a positive spin on the accomplishment, the team leader said, "We made it all the way to the moon. We're the seventh country to make it all the way to the moon."
Had this been successful it would have made Israel the fourth country to ever soft land a spacecraft on the moon, essentially a controlled landing on the lunar surface. The three other countries? The U.S., the former Soviet Union and China, all world powers. Israel would have been, by far, the smallest country and the smallest program.
Some even joked that instead of calling the spacecraft Beresheet, which means, in Hebrew, the beginning of the Bible, "In the beginning," this should have been called Chutzpah, for Israel believing it had the gall to pull this one off.
[00:35:08] In the end, to keep the weight of the craft down, there were very few redundancies built in. And the landing was always going to be the most difficult part. And it was in that landing sequence that Beresheet crashed on the lunar surface.
Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.
VAUSE: Well, now to a successful space mission of another kind. SpaceX launched its first ever mission for a paying customer with its Falcon heavy rocket on Thursday. The U.S. company sent a communications satellite in orbit for a Saudi company.
What also made this mission unique: The Falcon's three powerful boosters returned safely to Earth, which makes them reusable, which makes them cheaper, lowering costs.
Extended stays in space can change the body in many ways, right down to the genetic level. A NASA study reached that conclusion after comparing American astronaut Scott Kelly -- he's on the right -- with his identical brother, Mark. He's on the right. No, just kidding.
Scott Kelly spent almost a year in space while his twin remained here on earth. Researchers say the study suggests human health can be mostly sustained for a year in space. Despite changes in weight, gut bacteria, cognitive abilities, astronaut Kelly's body returned to normal six months after making it back to Earth.
British lawmakers have a little bit of breathing room before another Brexit deadline, but for the rest of Britain, patience is done. How a dose of dry humor might just be keeping the public sane. That's next.
VAUSE: Well, the world's largest general election still underway in India. Nearly 900 million eligible voters are casting their ballots. The main contenders are the BJP, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the Indian National Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi.
Nikhil Kumar has details.
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Voting began Thursday in India's marathon general election, but this is just the beginning. It's a weeks' long process, seven phases in all. And it all has to do with the size of this exercise. It's colossal.
There's about 900 million people eligible to vote in these elections. They're going to be voting at about a million voting stations that are all over this country. And about 10 million officials are involved in overseeing the whole exercise.
We won't know the results until May when all of it comes to an end and results are declared on the 23rd. This election will decide whether or not Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power in 2014 in a landslide, whether or not he gets a second term.
Until last year it looked like this was going to be a cakewalk for him. But there have been questions about his record on the promises he made on things like the economy. And he's facing a challenge from the opposition, including the principal opposition, Congress by Rahul Gandhi.
What will happen? A lot hinges on where I am, Utter Pradesh state, the most consequential state in this entire contest. Its voters like these who will decide who gets to run India when we know the result in May.
Nikhil Kumar, CNN, Utter Pradesh in India.
VAUSE: Well, Brexit has been delayed. Lawmakers have a few extra months to hold nonbinding aspirational votes that don't mean anything. And this three-year-long process continues to drag on and on and on.
[00:40:07] And the only bright spot, it seems, to all of this has been that gallows humor of the British public, the stiff upper lip as they keep trying to push ahead. Nick Glass takes a look at how humorists and artists are turning the country's tragic comedy into masterpieces.
NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are all familiar now with the "B"-word. Just animate the cartoons, and here's a movie franchise.
Theresa May, crash test pilot. Also from "The Guardian," May, plucked duck.
From "The New Yorker," a walk-on part. Big Ben as cuckoo clock.
So what are they all looking at here? Why all the mobile phones? Well, a simple reason: a big painting by the street artist Banksy is back on show in Bristol. His version of the House of Commons.
GLASS: The image has been widely disseminated on Facebook.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so topical, I think.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very apt. Very apt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wondering if that is actually based on an actual photo from -- from Parliament. You can imagine that people probably are, like, yawning and picking their noses. And there's a load of them all screaming over there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think they're all monkeys. I think Parliament are doing a good job of not passing a mess and not making a big mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The way they're behaving recently, I don't think he's gone far enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country's divided now around the political situation. It's a kind of God help us all. You've got to laugh. There's nothing left to do.
GLASS: The artist John Springs has worked obsessively on this huge Brexit canvas for almost two years. Jean-Claude Juncker driving an apparent gravy train in a hellish vision partly inspired by Hieronymus Bosch.
JOHN SPRINGS, ARTIST: You can't put their heads on spikes anymore, so this is all you can do.
Through humor, it has a rather comforting effect, and it's what brings people back together, whether Remainders or Brexiteers.
GLASS: A more sobering response to Brexit from another British artist, Anish Kapoor, a relief map of the kingdom violently ripped apart and in urgent need of surgery. The work is called "Brexit, Broxit, We All Fall Down."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brexit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brexit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brexit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brexit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brexit.
GLASS: The fact is there's simply no escaping the "B"-word, used teasingly to promote a book makers --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brexit, it's like (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He's the only one who doesn't sink to complete disaster. It's why you, my dear British champs, must hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
GLASS: And for a television newspaper ad, the Commons turned into an open-plan zoo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could talk to the animals, learn their language, maybe take an animal degree.
GLASS: An Edvard Munch exhibition has just opened at the British Museum with an original lithograph of "The Scream." "The London Evening Standard" cartoonist just couldn't resist it.
The museum was so impressed it acquired his Theresa May version for its collection.
The truth is, we all need cheering up at this Brexatious time. Being British, that means ever darker art, wit, and satire.
Nick Glass, CNN, in London.
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