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Sydney Partially Reopens After 100 Days Of Lockdown; Studies Indicate COVID-19 Having A Mental Health Impact; Fears Grow Poland Could Leave E.U. Amid Legal Primacy Fight; Container Ships Stalled At Sea With Ports Full; Opera Performer Killed Onstage During Live Performance; Xi Vows To Pursue Peaceful Reunification With Taiwan; William Shatner's Space Flight Delayed Due To High Winds. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 11, 2021 - 00:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Robyn Curnow live in Atlanta. Thanks for joining me. It has been months in the making and now Sydneysiders are celebrating freedom. We look at the celebrations and the huge mental toll of lockdown.

Also, mass protests in Poland, many are fearful that the country could exit the European Union. And it is not science fiction. Captain Kirk is really going to space. There's just a slight delay. And we'll tell you all about that.

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

CURNOW: Good to have you along. Now, the world is forging a path to a new normal as pandemic battered nations look to reopen without triggering new waves of the coronavirus.

Malaysia is lifting some travel restrictions after vaccinating 90% of his adult population. Italy also announced an inoculation milestone 80% of all eligible Italians are fully vaccinated.

Dozens of nations and now author U.K.'s red list of restricted travel destinations as of Monday, only seven countries now remain. And Colombia, the Dominican Republic Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. There have been nearly 238 million cases worldwide since the pandemic began and more than 4.8 million deaths.

Now one major city that is emerging from COVID lockdowns is Sydney. Business owners are welcoming back patrons after more than four months fully vaccinated residents can now go to gym, restaurants, and shops. More than 5 million people have been under strict lockdown since June, but officials lifted measures after hitting a 70% vaccination rate. The premier of New South Wales says if everyone does their part, they can open up even more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DOMINIC PERROTTET, NEW SOUTH WALES PREMIER: Well, it's a big day for our state and to everyone across New South Wales. You've earned it. It's been 100 days of blood sweat notice, but we've got it if we take personal responsibility, we will get through this difficult time. It's a time of optimism. It's a time of hope. We know that business confidence was crucial in getting our economy through last year. But importantly, we need to do it in a safe way.


CURNOW: CNN producer Angus Watson joins me now from Sydney. Obviously, a rainy day in Sydney with the Opera House behind you, as certainly being very draconian measures there in Sydney. No doubt relief, though that you're getting a little bit of freedom today.

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Absolutely, Robyn, the sense of relief has swept across this city of 5 million people locked down for 106 days. Now of course, the weather isn't playing fair with Freedom Day that that sense of relief palpable. As gyms, restaurants open, people can go out for a haircut and see their families in their own homes for the first time since June.

It has been remarkable the way the Delta variant has spread through this city since June when one person caught a driver transporting airline crews from the airport to their hotels. Since that person caught it, we've had over 60,000 cases well over 300 deaths. But that has also coincided with the vaccination rates here in Sydney and the rest of Australia climbing supply and hesitancy issues have been overcome.

And we've hit this mark of over 70% of the adult population, now fully vaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 15 are quickly catching up as well. Meaning that people are feeling much safer about getting on with their lives and living in this COVID normal society, living with the virus as it's been termed.

But Sydney really is an outlier for the rest of the country. In that way, it's the only place now that is open and has COVID-19 cases. There's this real divide here in Australia between New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria or which have COVID-19 and the rest of the states which don't they've closed their borders to one another. Sydney now hoping to show the way of how to live with the virus with that high vaccination rate, Robyn.

CURNOW: And how Australians dealing with this? As you say, you know, if you're in Perth, you certainly haven't been able to go to Brisbane or to Sydney. It really has been an incredibly top-down lockdown across each of the states. What are folks saying there, is there frustration, is there anger, is there relief?

WATSON: Look, it is really tough. It has been very difficult. These border closures have really divided the country. They've kept people apart from their loved ones as you say they've kept people apart from their work now for months and months.

It's strange though the people who have lived in the city, say Perth, or Brisbane or Adelaide that haven't had viruses, that hadn't had the COVID-19 virus in the community, they're pleased that they've been able to live their life as normal and they haven't wanted to go down the route that say Sydney and Melbourne have gone down, of course, but of course everybody wants to open up, wants to be added a whole country again, Robyn.


So, those vaccination rates are crucial. Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra leading the way, the imperative has been there because the virus has been present in the community, the rest of Australia catching up, and hopefully, the whole country can be reunited soon Robyn.

WILLIAMS: Angus Watson there in Sydney. Thanks so much, Angus.

Well, Sunday marked world Mental Health Day which comes days after the Lancet medical journal published a global analysis about the mental health impact of COVID. It shows reports of depression, and anxiety jumping by more than a quarter over the course of a pandemic.

In Australia crisis support groups report major increases in contacts through April, the last month of which the government data is available. And calls to the crisis support Lifeline increased more than 18% in April 2021 over April 2019, and contacts with the Kids Helpline increased more than 10%.

Well, Damian Santomauro is a Senior Research Fellow at the Queensland Center for Mental Health Research who worked on this Lancet study. You're live there in Brisbane, Australia, great to have you. This is a fascinating study, it's important because you're able to put a number on people's feelings here. Why is that key?

DAMIAN SANTOMAURO, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, QUEENSLAND CENTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH RESEARCH: Well, it's important for us to know just how many people are living with during 2020 at least for this paper. We're living with major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders as a result of the pandemic.

This is very important for service planning moving forward, as we know, start thinking about how we're going to put it, to put together kind of recovery packages together when governments are starting to thinking about starting to think about that, it's this work really was so that to kind of highlight the mental health need as well.

CURNOW: And what did you discover? I mean, it really does seem like the numbers are staggering, but do you think they tell the real story, just break it down for us?

SANTOMAURO: So, we estimated about 53 million people globally with major depressive disorder, in addition to what was expected if COVID- 19 didn't happen. And for anxiety disorders, we estimate about 76 million people globally. So that they're quite big numbers are quite a lot of additional people that globally that will need, you know, additional help and put a strain on the mental health services globally. CURNOW: And what is it that has caused major depressive disorders and anxieties? Is it lockdowns, is it, you know, the fact that people have lost so much? What is it that is creating this this terrible sense of anxiety that people are feeling?

SANTOMAURO: It could be a whole number of things. It could be, you know, not the lockdowns, like you said, not being able to engage with peers, the economic consequences of lockdown, we know that when people lose their jobs, or they face financial hardships, that the prevalence of these disorders increase.

We've seen in -- we've kind of seen COVID as like a population shock to the population and population shock. And we have seen in kind of more localized past shocks, that pandemics, war and conflict and financial crises do increase the prevalence of these disorders. And so, it's a similar kind of contributing factors, but many of them apply.

CURNOW: And who's vulnerable, who has been and who continues to be the most vulnerable?

SANTOMAURO: We've estimated increases almost across the lifespan, the both sexes but we've seen, definitely seen an increase -- a greater increase among women, even more so -- so the base pre-pandemic prevalence for women was already higher than males for both of these disorders, but the actual increase in itself was also higher.

And we think this could be for lots of different reasons. It could be that, you know, women are more likely to pick up kind of the additional care roles as people get sick or more likely to take on the homeschooling roles when there's a high school closure.

They're also more vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID-19 so that less lower incomes, less savings, less stable employment, and there's emerging evidence that domestic violence has increased as well during lockdowns, which is risk factor for me.


CURNOW: Yeah, that's certainly. So, women are certainly feeling or at least carrying the burden of this emotionally as well as in many other ways. But also, younger people, there's been so much attention paid to elderly people getting sick, but young people have just lost so much. Their futures have just sort of evaporated, that surely has an impact as well.

SANTOMAURO: Definitely, we've seen a greater increase in the prevalence among youth than the old age groups. And we think that it could be, well, for example, UNESCO declared that pandemics been the greatest impact disruption to education in history.

Children and youth have not had that same kind of peer-to-peer interaction during a very important kind of social developmental stage of their lives. And then, you know, working youth, so adult youth. We've seen in past financial crisis, there are a lot more likely to lose their employment during the financial crisis. So that's how a role to play as well.

CURNOW: Now you there in Australia, as you heard our reporter a little bit before Australia's had a really tough luck, a series of lockdowns continues to have a number of divisions but it's very unique it's an island nation, borders have closed, boom, don't come in, don't come out. How is this data extrapolated there to perhaps South Africa, where I grew up or even other parts of Africa or Asia? Is there a consistency among demographics and countries?

SANTOMAURO: So, what we've used to kind of predict out this change in the prevalence has been indicators of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. So daily infection rate of the disease, of virus, sorry, and, and human mobility. So how people's movements have dropped compared to pre pandemic baselines.

And so, from our estimates, we predict out that countries that have been at least at the national level, that that the greater the kind of impact of that virus, of COVID-19 on the population, the greater the increase in the prevalence. So, when you compare Australia for 2020, I do want to make that clear these estimates for 2020 only, Australia have rolled at a national level a bit quite well.

So, for Australia, the impact that we've estimated out is lower than other places around the world. But 2021 might be a very different story.

CURNOW: It certainly might be and, in many ways, it became tougher, I suppose for a lot of people. Damian Santomauro, I really appreciate it. Extremely important work that you that you've done and that you continue to do, I appreciate you joining us there from Brisbane.

SANTOMAURO: Thank you so much, Robyn.

CURNOW: Cheers. So, the U.S. appears to be gaining ground and its fight against the pandemic. Nationally, the number of new infections has been falling since last month, just five states saw a significant jump in new cases last week. COVID hospitalizations have dropped to their lowest since August, and COVID deaths have also been declining across much of the country.

Now, despite all of those signs of progress, Health experts are urging Americans to not throw caution to the wind. They say infection rates are still far too high. And vaccination numbers are just lagging behind where they should be. Here is Polo Sandoval with more on that. Polo.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Big Picture COVID rates are on the decline across most of the United States. 45 states according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks these figures, saw either decline or remain relatively steady over the weekend in terms of the number of new cases, five states to look out for though Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania reporting at least a 10 percent increase in COVID cases in the past week compared to the previous week. Nationally, the U.S. seeing about 95,000 new infections a day. It's actually pretty good considering that that number had not dipped below 100,000 for at least a couple of months. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that we are certainly going in the right direction, but the number of infections, new infections daily, that is still too high, and the number of vaccine Americans is still not high enough. So, when we heard from over the weekend, he basically warned against declaring a premature victory.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We have to just be careful that we don't prematurely declare victory. In many respects, we still have around 68 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated, that have not yet gotten vaccinated. And even those who have been vaccinated, I mean, you want to look forward to holiday seasons and spending time with your family and doing those sorts of things. But don't just throw your hands up and say it's all over.

SANDOVAL: By now roughly three and four eligible Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Pfizer for its part continuing its efforts to secure emergency use authorization to use its vaccine on children ages five to 11, meaning for now their parents are basically stuck in a waiting game as a CDC vaccine advisory panel not expected to meet until early November. Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.



CURNOW: Still ahead on CNN, we are staying. That is the message from these crowds in Poland, demanding to remain part of the E.U. A legal fight is brewing that could throw the block in jeopardy. Plus, details on the tragic death of an opera performer killed during a live show. We report from Moscow, that's coming up.


CURNOW: Massive crowds here, rallying behind the E.U. The European Union fears are growing Poland could eventually break with a block. Organizers say protests were held in dozens of cities across Poland on Sunday, with as many as 100,000 people turning out in Warsaw alone.

The Pro-EU rallies come after Poland's Constitutional Court challenged the primacy of European law over its national law. All the court's decision on Thursday was welcomed by Poland's conservative Prime Minister and analysts said could be the first step towards a legal Polish exit from the E.U. Here is Kim Brunhuber.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The flags of Poland and the European Union flying side by side and Warsaw. Organizers say 10s of 1000s of poles filled castle square on Sunday in a show of unity with the E.U. chanting we are staying. The crowd's message was clear. They want Poland to remain a member of the E.U.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stay in the European Union because we feel stronger, and we hope there will be more prosperity if we are in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am here for Poland. I am here for my children. One of them is with me here. And I don't believe we can ever leave Europe.

BRUNHUBER: On Thursday, a ruling by Poland's highest court challenged one of the cornerstones of that relationship. The court said, Polish law supersedes other sources of law, including some of those set by the E.U. It's a landmark ruling praised by the country's right wing nationalist government.

The prime minister says other member states have had similar rulings that concluded, "E.U. institutions sometimes go beyond the powers conferred on them in the treaties by colliding with national constitutional rights." Still, says that "All obligations under European Union law remain in force."

But moves shockwaves throughout Europe, Donald Tusk, a former European Council chief and leader of the country's main opposition group, urged people to turn out for the protests.

DONALD TUSK, POLAND OPPOSITION LEADER (through translation): I said yesterday that even if I had to be alone, I will stand and raise this alarm because it is a matter of our future. The future of our children and grandchildren.

BRUNHUBER: Relations between Brussels and Warsaw have been strained since the Law and Justice Party came to power six years ago. The party has introduced reforms to the judiciary. It says we'll make courts more efficient, but the E.U. says could threaten judicial independence. Some critics fear that Thursday's court ruling could be a first step towards a polite exit to our Poland leaving the E.U. A prospect the government calls fake news.


That something protesters say they're adamantly opposed to, the E.U. says it will use all of its power to enforce the rules of the block and could cut off sending more funds to Poland over the course decision. Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


CURNOW: U.S. Futures are down but somewhat recovered from earlier lows as you can see from the screen. Wall Street closed flat on Friday after a weaker than expected. U.S. jobs report and steadily rising oil prices. Want to take a look at the Asian markets now, Asian shares are rallying despite inflation worries the Nikkei rebounded early and Hong Kong extended last week's advance at the open.

All supply chain problems are weighing on investors mind, some raw materials are already in short supply while other products are stuck in container ship stalled at sea. Even when those ships make it to port, there aren't enough truck drivers to get cargo on the road. All of that could add up to a pretty disappointing holiday shopping season. Kyung Lah now reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COMMANDER STEPHEN BOR, COMMANDER IN THE U.S. COAST GUARD: This is where we've got a second passage.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (inaudible). To understand the problem on the ground --

BOR: Five, four (inaudible).

LAH: -- you first need to see it from the air.

BOR: We're flying right over the anchorages just south of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

LAH: This is where the global supply chain meets the U.S. economy says Coast Guard Commander Stephen Bor.

BOR: It's record breaking. It's unprecedented. There are more ships than there are parking spots. We are effectively operating a cell phone waiting lot in the Pacific Ocean.

LAH: This bottleneck of container ships as far as the eye can see, carries more than half the made in Asia items purchased by the American consumer.

BOR: You're looking at all of the electronics. You're looking at all of the health goods. You're looking at all of the things that people are looking forward to buy this coming holiday season.

LAH: Zero ships usually stay parked here, but on this day Commander Bor counts 55 in the ports and more drifting further out into the Pacific.

While worst here, the back-up at all west coast U.S. ports. What does that indicate to you about what's happening in the supply chain?

BOR: You know, I think everybody can see that things are slowing down.

LAH: Slowing down and piling up at sea, and at the ports of entry. This is what happens when a global economy snaps back after the COVID slump of

2020. American consumers are back buying with force, but the supply chain is struggling to catch up.

MARIO CORDERO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE PORT OF LONG BEACH: We need to have an Amazon state of mind in this industry, and by that, I mean Amazon changed everything.

LAH: While shoppers click 24 hours a day, factories in Asia are still stopping due to COVID. Then in the U.S., national labor shortages and limited work hours. The Port of Long Beach is just now experimenting with round the clock operations.

CORDERO: What this is, is a wake-up call for all of us in this industry to realize you can't operate with the model of yesterday.

LAH: The goal, cut the wait time for truck drivers, the next link of the supply chain, moving containers out of the port.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyday there are five, six hours in the harbor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to wait like six hours.

LAH: Six hours?


RUBEN PONCE, TRUCK DRIVER: I was in there for nine hours.

LAH: Nine hours Ruben Ponce lost that he could have been moving merchandise.

PONCE: And then I'm making less money. Yes, because I can't do as many rounds.

LAH: National data shows there is a truck driver shortage, but Ponce says the problem is even more basic than that.

PONCE: So now the port is backed up. Us, we're backed up, the truckers, we're backed up. Everyone's backed up and it's just a big problem.

LAH: So, it's like a chain reaction.

PONCE: Exactly. Exactly.

LAH: Delayed trucks means delays at warehouses like Canton Food Company in Los Angeles.

CHO KWAN, CEO OF CANTON FOOD COMPANY: I have about eight containers out in the harbor somewhere, from China and Vietnam.

LAH: Filled with food.

KWAN: Still just waiting.

LAH: That means for this warehouse, empty shelves with no date to fill them. Basic economics are at play, scarcity drives up prices. So, it's almost doubled in price.

KWAN: I would say maybe at least 70 percent.


LAH: Prices for ingredients, restaurant owner Ricardo Mosqueda has to pay.

MOSQUEDA: All the different products that you have to substitute, you have to change now 30 percent more or 50 percent more, 100 percent more.

LAH: This La Tacoria brand location operates in a renovated shipping container.


LAH: The supplies Mosqueda needs sit out at sea, in the same metal bins, a cruel irony after barely keeping his restaurant open through the pandemic.


MOSQUEDA: We worry, as far as -- because you don't know what's going to happen, right? You don't know what's next.

LAH: How long are these ships going to be floating out here?

BOR: I really can't say how long they're going to be like this. I think we're all going to wait and see how long this shakes out.

LAH (on camera): Now the consensus from the Coast Guard, to the economists, to the very workers on the supply chain, this could last into next year. So, what does that mean for you? Well, it means, start your holiday shopping now. The truck driver you heard from, he says he's already going through his list because he wants to make sure that his nephews get what they want. Kyung Lah, CNN, Long Beach, California.


CURNOW: On the plots of many operas and in tragedy, but a real-life death that played out on stage has really stunned. Russia's Bolshoi Theater, state media site is still saying a performer was crushed during a live event. Matthew Chance reports now from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this tragic accident happened during a scenery change during the performance of a famous Russian opera called Sadko at the prestigious Bolshoi Theatre here in Moscow. Apparently one of the background actors according to law enforcement officials moved the wrong way when a heavy ramp was being loaded onto the stage, crushing him underneath.

Footage that's appeared online shows performers shouting stop and call an ambulance but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. On social media members of the audience have expressed their shock and said they initially thought it was some kind of staged trick. In a statement, the Bolshoi Theatre has expressed condolences to the friends and family of the victim.

Investigators say they're looking into the circumstances around the death. Because, you know, this is not the first time that the Bolshoi is becoming embroiled in tragedy in 2014. A violinist died after falling into the orchestra pit at the theater. And in 2011, a Bolshoi Ballet dancer was jailed for throwing acid into the face of the company's artistic director badly damaging his eyesight. Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


CURNOW: Thank you, Matthew for that. So, coming up on CNN, Taiwan marks its national day as tensions with Mainland China remain high. We'll hear how the islands president is responding to comments from China's Xi Jinping. Plus, the polls are closed in Iraq's early parliamentary elections. But observers say the turnout is far from encouraging.


CURNOW: Welcome back to all of our viewers around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow, you're watching CNN. It's 29 minutes past the hour.


Taiwan says Chinese military aircraft have again entered its air defense zone this time as the island marked National Day. That came Sunday as Taiwan's president delivered a defined speech amid heightened tensions with Beijing. Tsai Ing-Wen said that the self- governing island will defend its democratic way of life and won't bow to pressure, just one day after China's president vowed to pursue a peaceful reunification with Taiwan.


XI JINPING, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translation): No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and the ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The complete reunification of our country will be and can be realized.

TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN (through translation): We hope for an easing of cross strait relations and will not act rationally, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure.


CURNOW: Well, Ivan Watson is tracking these developments. He joins us now from Hong Kong. I mean, just in the last few days, Ivan, the temperature has ratcheted up significantly. What do you make of this and how much of it is theater, political theater, and how much of it is a real concern about peace in the region?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the rhetoric across the Taiwan Strait has ratcheted up. And it's a very unusual scene here. You have the democratically-elected president of an island that governs itself of some 23 million people, refusing the demands, repeated of Beijing that Taiwan rejoin Mainland China and submit to China's one party communist rule.

And Tsai Ing-Wen, in her speech, described Taiwan as a front line of defense for democracies against what she described as expanding authoritarianism around the world. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TSAI (through translation): Nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us. This is because the path that China has laid out office leader a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan nor sovereignty for 23 million people.


WATSON: Now, as you mentioned, Robyn, this was during a National Day celebration in Taiwan. Of course, Beijing refuses to recognize or allow any other government around the world to recognize Taiwan as being a sovereign entity saying it's a breakaway region of Mainland China, even though it's basically been on its own since 1949 when defeated nationalists fled China in the Civil War and the Communist Party to establish their own kind of statelet in Taiwan.

There was a military parade as is normal on National Day in Taipei, but it was a little bit different and that the Ministry of Defense said that that rockets and missiles would be displayed. They weren't actually shown but there has been a renewed call for Taiwan to expand its defenses amid the threat or fear that there could be an attack from China.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for peaceful reunification of Taiwan with Mainland China. But on Sunday, Taiwan's Ministry of Defense said three Chinese war planes flew into Taiwan's air defense identification zone, a repeat of a pattern that had been taken place about a week ago.

Meanwhile, we've already had a response from China's Taiwan Affairs Council denouncing the Taiwanese president speech, accusing her of seeking independence and saying repeating this statement that the motherland must be and will be reunited. Robyn.

CURNOW: Thanks so much for that live in Hong Kong, Ivan Watson. Really appreciate it. Thanks, Ivan.

Well, polls are now closed in Iraq and preliminary results in the country's parliamentary election are expected in the coming hours. We're hearing that the turnout was low, and analysts say voters just aren't confident any real change can be created at the ballot box despite a push from protesters to hold these elections early. More now from Sam Kiley.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Polling has now closed in Iraq's general elections. These elections were called early bright Prime Minister Kadhimi in response to the widespread demonstrations that gripped the country in 2019.

They resulted in the deaths of at least 600 people and the disappearances of dozens of others. These disappearances, political disappearances, blamed on militia groups and the parties behind them, very often Shia groups but also Sunni too.


And there's no chance really in the view of most commentators looking at these elections that the new sectarian dispensation that will follow these elections will look very different to the one that preceded it. Now, that is going to be bits of disappointment to those demonstrators who demanded a change of government and end to corruption, an end to unemployment. And above all, an end to Iranian influence.

That influence likely to continue with the expectation being that significant share party blocks are going to be, if not dominant, then dominating a great deal of Iraqis political future. Particularly, though, eyes will be on the role of Muqtada al-Sadr because while he is the leader of what is likely to be the biggest Shia block, he has rejected the heavy Iranian influence over his country in the last few years.

Having in the past, been backed by them, he's now been leaning a lot more towards a more ecumenical approach in terms of international relations, even talking to the Americans and trying to encourage Iraq's participation in world affairs in a new way of following on his own militias resistance against the American-led intervention in his country some years ago.

So a key player to watch, but in the rest of the way, the 329 seats are likely to be distributed. There is assumed to be a predictable, almost set piece of demonstration of the sectarian nature of the Iraqi nation with a number of seats going to Kurdish party, Sunni parties and, of course, the very large Shia blocks. Sam Kiley, CNN in Abu Dhabi.

CURNOW: Well, US is calling weekend talks with Taliban representatives "candid and professional." The US delegation traveled to Doha for the talks which focused on safe passage for US citizens, former Afghan partners and foreign nationals, as well as direct humanitarian assistance and human rights issues. The US says the Taliban will be judged on their actions, not their words.

And next on CNN, he waited 90 years to make it into space, but he'll have to wait just a little bit longer for. We want to know why William Shatner's liftoff is being delayed and what the actor is saying about this historic site. Plus, blocks of lava, the size of buildings are flowing from that volcano in the Canary Islands, details on the latest eruptions next.


CURNOW: Star Trek's Captain Kirk will have to wait a little bit longer to boldly go where no 90-year-old man has gone before. Blue Origin is delaying William Shatner spaceship by day because of high winds in the forecast. The launch is now slated for Wednesday, at which point the actor will become the oldest person to ever travel to space. Kristin Fisher has a preview. Kristen.



KRISTIN FISHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He led the USS Enterprise on an intergalactic odyssey, now he will get to go on his own odyssey.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: Things I've only played as an actor. I'm going to see firsthand.

FISHER: Star Trek's iconic Captain James Kirk will soon get to go to space for real.

SHATNER: I'm thrilled and anxious, and a little nervous, and a little frightened about this whole new adventure.

FISHER: Blue Origin announced on Monday that actor William Shatner will be on the company's next flight, alongside Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of Mission and Flight Operations.

Shatner, Powers and two others will lift off from a remote stretch of West Texas less than three months after the company's first crewed launch. The crew will enjoy about four minutes of weightlessness during an 11-minute suborbital trip to space, similar to what Jeff Bezos, his brother and two others did during the summer.

SHATNER: I go to the edge of space and they loosen these restraints around me and be weightless, and looking into the vastness of the universe.

FISHER: Shatner who played Captain Kirk on the hit television series Star Trek and went on to star in seven Star Trek films joked about this opportunity years ago,

AL ROKER, NBC HOST: If you were given the opportunity to go into space, would you?

SHATNER: If I got a guarantee that I would come back.

FISHER: That opportunity is now here, and 90-year-old Shatner seems surprised himself.

SHATNER: Because 55 years ago I was destitute and I'm looking at the sky, the astronauts stepping on the moon, and I had a little bit to do with those astronauts. And 55 years later, I'm going into space. I want to come back and tell you about how I really felt when I saw these things that we've only learned about second hand.

FISHER: His fans are excited to hear about his mission too, many taking to Twitter to express their excitement. "Late Night" host Stephen Colbert even making a joke about the mission tweeting, "I hope William Shatner doesn't have unrealistic expectations of what space is like." Kristin Fisher, CNN, Washington,


CURNOW: Blocks of lava as large as three storey buildings have now been rolling down from an erupting volcano in the Canary Islands.

I want you to take a look at these live pictures. This is happening right now in the Canary Islands. The lava has been flowing for more than three weeks and tremors are still being felt in the area. Extraordinary images of what's happening there.

About 6,000 people have been forced from their homes and more than 1000 buildings have now been destroyed. La Palma's airport reopened though after being forced to close on Thursday due to volcanic ash.

And stay with us. In the next hour, I will speak to someone who was on the ground when the volcano first erupted and we'll continue to monitor these live pictures of this of this lava, which is really just huge and devastating. So stay with us for that. I'll see you again in the next few minutes. I'm Robyn Curnow, see you there.