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U.S. And E.U. Diplomats To Meet With Taliban In Qatar; Tensions Soar Between Taiwan And China; Merck Seeks U.S. Authorization For Antiviral COVID Pill; People Find 126 People In Truck Container In Guatemala. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 00:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, welcome. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN.

So, coming up on the show, inside the Taliban's so-called justice. CNN's Clarissa Ward and her team looked into what the Taliban say and what is really happening.

And a war of words between China and Taiwan that could be a major headache for President Biden, we have that story.

Also, a COVID pill closer to ingestion by the sick, and the WHO recommending a third shot for some.

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

CURNOW: Good to have you along this hour. Thanks for joining me.

So, we start this hour with Afghanistan where the Taliban are trying to strike a balance between legitimacy on the world stage and their draconian version of Sharia law at home.

Their latest chance comes in the day ahead as government officials will meet with U.S. and European diplomats in Qatar. Italy's Prime Minister will also chair a virtual summit, seeking badly needed humanitarian aid for the country.

And U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is urging the world to donate more money to head of economic collapse in Afghanistan, but he says he's not happy with the Taliban's treatment of women, and the country will never recover without their participation.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY GENERAL, U.N.: I am particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban being broken. Broken promises leads to broken dreams for the women and girls of Afghanistan. Women and girls need to be the center of attention. Their ability to

learn, work, own assets and to live with rights and dignity will define progress.


CURNOW: The Taliban insists their approach to governing is gentler and less oppressive than in the past. But stories persist of vulnerable Afghans tortured and shamed with many evil techniques.

Here's CNN's Clarissa Ward.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the image the Taliban want to project. Friendly and pious, bringing peace and security.

On the streets of Ghazni City, Taliban official Moulavi Mansour (PH) Afghan goes from shop to shop, talking to the owners.

He asked how the security situation is with the Taliban in charge.

The situation is good, praise be to God, the man says.

It may well be a performance for our cameras, but it is telling the Taliban wants to show they have changed.

When you're talking to the men and some of them don't have long beards, are you saying anything to them about their beards or does it matter right now?

We tell the people that this is the Prophet Muhammad Sunnah and make them aware, he says, but we don't want to force the people to do this.

In another part of the market, the newly resurrected much feared religious police are also keen to show they are taking a lighter touch.

They gather the shopkeepers to introduce themselves and warn them about the importance of following the Sharia.

Make sure your women cover themselves, one Talab tells the crowd. They should not travel without a close male relative.

A man stands nearby casually smoking a cigarette, a punishable offense under the previous Taliban regime but no one says a thing.

Back at their headquarters at the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the men are still settling in.

Up until recently, this was the Ministry for Women. The man now in charge seems leery of my presence and refuses to meet my eye.

He says their mission is to help Afghans embrace Islamic rule.

And what do you do if they're not following your interpretation of Sharia law?

MAWLAVI ABDULLAH MOHAMMED, TALIBAN MINISTRY OF PROPAGATION OF VIRTUE AND PREVENTION OF VICE (through translator): We act with accordance to Sharia law. Firstly, we inform people about good deeds. We preach to them and deliver the message to them in a nice way. The second time, we repeat it to them again. And the third time, we speak to them slightly harshly.


WARD: If his words sound like talking points, that's because they are. As we leave, he hands us a newly issued Taliban booklet outlining the group's gentler approach.

So, he says that this book contains the rules for how they should carry out their work.

But old habits die hard and back in Kabul, it's clear not everyone is following the new guidelines.

It's badly bruised.

In a secure location, Wahid (PH) shows us the ugly marks left behind after he says he was whipped by Taliban fighters. We've changed his name for his protection.

He tells us three fighters stopped him at a busy traffic circle for wearing western style clothing. They took him into a guard hut and demanded to see his cell phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I had photos in my phone related to gays. Also, the clothes I was wearing were a gay style. They took me and covered my mouth. Two of them held each of my hands. And the third hit me. First with a whip and then, with a stick.

WARD: What reason did they give for doing this to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When they were beating me, they kept saying that I was a gay and I should be killed.

They had very scary faces. They were enjoying beating me.

WARD: That lurid brutality was on full display weeks earlier in the western city of Herat, when the bloodied bodies of four men were hung in public for all to see.

The Taliban said they were kidnappers killed during a raid. On one man's chest, a grim warning, abductors will be punished like this.

Remarkably, many in the crowd seem to approve of the Taliban's medieval display.

People are really happy about this decision, this man said, because people believe that by doing this, kidnapping can be removed from this province. In another grotesque display, two alleged criminals their faces

painted were humiliated before a jeering crowd. Punishment the Taliban favors for petty thieves.

After the corruption of the former government, the group has seized on a frenzy desire for swift justice, but they are savvy enough to know how it looks to the rest of the world.

Back in Ghazni, our attempts to see the justice system in action are repeatedly stonewalled. We're told that the Sharia High Court is closed despite the people waiting outside.

We're trying to show that you (INAUDIBLE).

As we tried to persuade the Taliban to let us in, we see two men head into the court. Our Taliban minder relents and lets us follow them.

But in the courtroom, the judge makes it clear we are not welcome.

Tell them to stop, he says.

We are quickly ushered out.

We've been trying all day to get into the Sharia court. They're not letting us but they also won't give us a reason.

It may be that what happens behind closed doors here doesn't fit the Taliban's new carefully cultivated image. And that the movement born in conflict is still brutal at its core.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Ghazni.


CURNOW: Thanks to Clarissa and her team for that great report.

Now, turning to Iraq now. Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political bloc has won most seats in Iraq's politic -- parliamentary elections while Iran's favorite candidates came up short. That's according to initial results from Iraq's Electoral Commission.

The U.S. and Iran have tried to influence Iraq's political trajectory ever since Sunni leader Saddam Hussein was toppled back in 2003.

But in his speech on Monday, al-Sadr reminder the world that his powerful political movement opposes foreign interference.


MUQTADA AL-SADR, SHIITE CLERIC, LEADER OF SADRIST MOVEMENT (through translator): We welcome all embassies that do not interfere in Iraq's internal affairs, so long as they do not interfere in Iraqi affairs as well as the formation of government.

With any intervention, we will have a diplomatic response or perhaps a popular one which is suitable to the offense. Iraq is only for Iraqis. Iraq is only for Iraqis.


CURNOW: Well, on Monday, al-Sadr's supporters took to the streets in Baghdad to celebrate these early results.

An increasingly tense relationship between China and Taiwan is putting the U.S. in a tough position and is quickly becoming a major test for President Joe Biden.


CURNOW: In recent weeks, we've seen ramped up rhetoric and heightened tensions as Beijing calls for a peaceful reunification with Taiwan but still sends dozens of military aircraft into its air defense identification zone.

And then, on Monday, the People's Liberation Army released this video showing combat capability exercises on Fujian Province directly across from Taiwan, but the exact date that took place is unknown (INAUDIBLE) its part, Taiwan remains defiant, with the president saying during National Day celebrations that the island won't bow to pressure and will defend its democratic way of life.

Well, CNN's Ivan Watson has been following all of these developments. He joins us now from Hong Kong. Hi, Ivan, Good to see you.

I do want to get your take on this later, let's call it a propaganda video coming from the People's Liberation Army, it's just one more chink in what has been an increasing rhetoric -- scaling up of rhetoric.

IVAN WATSON, CNN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, I mean, it's normal for militaries to conduct exercises and to try to stay sharp. The timing of the release of this video is what I think is conspicuous here. An amphibious landing where you see People's Liberation Army troops landing on a beach, cutting through barbed wire, making their way through mock minefields.

And the way that it's being interpreted on China's heavily censored internet and in state media as basically a signal, a warning to Taiwan. One coming after increasingly heated rhetoric between Beijing and Taipei and other examples of China flexing its military muscles with overflight of war planes into Taiwan to air defense identification zone, most recently on Sunday when three war planes came in.

Now, the Global Times this nationalist tabloid in China had some quotes from an unnamed military expert saying that these types of exercise demonstrate the People's Liberation Army overwhelmingly has an advantage over the armed forces of Taiwan. And adding that "Resisting unification by force will only bring doom more quickly to separatists".

And that is also the kind of epithet that Chinese state media uses against Taiwan's democratically elected leader Tsai Ing-wen, calling her a separatist and accusing her of provoking Beijing and ramping up the tensions.

Of course, the Taiwanese president herself has rejected repeated appeals from no less than China's leader Xi Jinping on Saturday, who said that reunification with the mainland is inevitable, it will happen.

And she has said no, and she is positioning her island as this kind of democratic beacon and front line against China's authoritarianism and one-party rule.

This tension is likely to continue. And it does threaten to bring in allies and supporters of Taiwan since another message that Beijing is hammering again and again, is any foreign force anybody seem to be supporting Taiwan will be viewed as a threat to Chinese national security.

CURNOW: And how is this hot rhetoric and that kind of narrative going down in Washington? I mean, what are the -- and particularly the White House? What are the implications for Joe Biden here?

WATSON: Well, Biden's trying to thread this needle very carefully. On the one hand, asserting Washington's right to support Taiwan's self- defense. But at the same time, not supporting Taiwan as an independent nation state, which, of course Beijing firmly rejects.

Washington maintains and has maintained for decades this kind of ambiguous strategy towards Taiwan, where the U.S. government recognizes a One-China policy, that there is only one China and that is represented by Beijing, and it will not recognize independence of Taiwan. And that is important for Beijing of course.

The problem is that when Beijing sees flirtation between the U.S. government and the government in Taipei, when it sees arm sales, or when there are perhaps reports of U.S. troops in Taiwan, which have not been confirmed, but have been reported for example in the Wall Street Journal, that erodes trust on the side of Mainland China.


WATSON: So, again, it's this balancing act, and it extends to smaller countries. I will cite the example of Lithuania which agreed to accept a representation of office from Taiwan over the course of the past year, and that infuriated the Chinese government even though Lithuania only has a population of four million people.

The Chinese government insisted on recalling ambassadors from both countries capitals. It does not want to see any recognition whatsoever of sovereignty for Taiwan, even though the Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan for a day since it took control of Mainland China in 1949, Robyn.

CURNOW: Thanks so much for that live in Hong Kong watching developments in Taiwan. Ivan Watson, thank you.

So, the World Bank president admits mistakes were made as a scandal threatens to overshadow its meetings this week with the IMF in Washington.

In an exclusive interview, David Malpass told CNN's Richard Quest there were certainly mistakes in the bank's handling of the doing business economic report.

Last month, an independent law firm found top World Bank officials who put "undue pressure" on the report's authors to boost the ratings of China and Saudi Arabia.


DAVID MALPASS, PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK: There were certainly mistakes in the -- in the process of the bank and the bank needs to find ways to avoid that into the future. And I'm working on that as hard as I can, so that the bank has a good environment to create quality projects into the future.


CURNOW: Kristalina Georgieva was running the World Bank at the time but is now the managing director at the IMF. She says she disagrees with the findings of the investigation.

Members of Britain's Parliament are slamming the U.K. government led by Boris Johnson over its handling of the COVID pandemic. They've issued a damning report calling the government's response slow and reactive.

They criticize the lack of attention given to the country's most vulnerable populations and to minority groups. The U.K. is one of the hardest hit countries in Europe in this pandemic with more than 138,000 COVID deaths.

And a promising new tool in the fight against COVID could be soon on the way for the U.S. The drug maker Merck has asked for Emergency Use Authorization for its anti-viral pill to treat COVID. The company says early trial data shows the pill cut the risk of hospitalization or death by half.

While those results are promising, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it shouldn't be a substitute for getting vaccinated.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data on that drug molnupiravir is promising. You know, it's a 50 percent diminution compared to placebo in hospitalizations and deaths. That's good news.

But the best way to get 100 percent chance of not getting hospitalized or dying is to not get infected in the first place. That's better than any drug.


CURNOW: Vaccine advisors with the World Health Organization are now recommending an additional COVID vaccine dose for people with compromised immune systems. They say a third dose is needed to ensure those people are fully protected.

The advisors were careful to distinguish their recommendations as an extra dose, not a booster shot, which the WHO opposes until more of the world is vaccinated.

We'll be joined now by Dr. Scott Miscovich, a national consultant for COVID testing and a family physician in Hawaii.

Doctor, lovely to see you again. I do want to talk about this pill. Certainly, a lot of optimism about it. Just tell us what exactly it does.

DR. SCOTT MISCOVICH, NATIONAL CONSULTANT FOR COVID TESTING: Well, Robyn, this is similar if you've ever been given the medicine called Tamiflu. If you've ever been diagnosed with full flu or influenza, we've had a medication which is an anti-viral medication that you've been able to prescribe your patients and you take it for a short period of time, and it significantly reduces the duration and the severity of the flu. Well, this is exactly in that same class.

Actually, this medicine was derived for that and has not been just popped up to treat COVID. It does exactly the same thing.

I describe it to my patients as almost like an antibiotic, if you had an infection, this gets in your system, it stops the virus from replicating. And it's quite safe and quite effective.

So, we're very excited about it where someone gets sick, you call your doctor, he calls you in a prescription or she calls you in a prescription.

CURNOW: I mean, this is very exciting, no doubt. But let's just talk about this as you got Dr. Fauci saying, don't use this and not get vaccinated. You can use it I suppose if you get sick if you're vaccinated, or unvaccinated.


CURNOW: And clearly, also this will be amazing for many parts of the world, which -- you know, which is still lagging when it comes to vaccinations.

MISCOVICH: Yes, that is the big problem we're having right now. One of the things I'm seeing from the field because my teams are doing vaccines everywhere, is that because boosters are coming up, people are saying, well, why am I going to get my initial vaccine if there's a booster? Why? And then, they say the same thing. If there is a pill I can take, why do I have to get vaccinated?

Well, the answer is the vaccine stops you from dying, the data is crystal clear. These are going to reduce your chances of hospitalization and reduce your chances of having severe disease, but it's not going to eliminate your chances of having them. CURNOW: Let's talk then about folks who are sick, who have compromised immune systems. So, an extra dose is being suggested for them, not a booster shot. Their semantics and a bit of politics involved in the language. Why is this an important distinction?

MISCOVICH: Well, it's all for the same reason, so we can get people to understand that certain people really need to step up and get it. You know, I tell all the people we're vaccinating that if you're significantly overweight, or if you're a smoker and have compromised lungs already, and or diabetes or hypertension, you really need to be stepping up to the front of the line.

Statistically, you're the person that if your immune system isn't responding as well to the vaccine, you can get a break through infection, and you could be hospitalized or you can die.

So, whatever wording it takes to get people to get this done, I don't care, none of us care, we just want people to step in to get that extra shot, the booster shot or the next shot, whatever it's called. And it's going to save lives.

CURNOW: But again, we're reminded that we're having this conversation, that this is an option that people have in places like the U.S. where we are right now. But across the world, folks don't have their first shot yet.

MISCOVICH: Yes, exactly. And I know WHO has been very much standing the line to say, wait, why are we rolling out boosters, second shots, third shots, because you know, we're also talking right now that Moderna and J&J have asked for additional shots to be given. So, they want the additional boosters.

And across the world, the WHO and the countries are saying we have less than 10 percent of the poor countries of the world that are vulnerable vaccinated, can't we do them first?

Yes, we all agree that until we get vaccinations broadly across the world, the chance that a new variant or a true mutation occurs is significant.

So, yes, I agree with that concept. But at the same time, I mean, we know how it goes, the populations going to be demanding it.

And the other thing, as you stated earlier, the U.K. and the U.S. have been the worst countries in the whole planet that have dealt with COVID and have had the most deaths and most hospitalizations. And so yes, we have some issues we need to step up and deal with.

CURNOW: Always good to speak to get your perspective. Thanks so much, Doctor. Have a great day.

MISCOVICH: Thank you, Robyn. Take care.

CURNOW: So, coming up on CNN, a migrant tragedy is averted when Guatemala police respond to an abandoned truck where officials say the migrants came from, that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CURNOW: Welcome back. UNICEF says a record 19,000 children have made the dangerous trek through the jungle between Colombia and Panama this year. The 60-kilometer Darien Gap as it's called is the passage migrants used to leave South America in the hopes of reaching the U.S. or Canada.

At least five children have been found dead in the jungle and more than 150 arrived in Panama without their parents.

UNICEF says criminal gangs operate around the Gap and of course, sexual violence is on the rise.

One group of migrants found near Guatemala's capital are lucky to be alive. Police discovered more than a hundred people trapped inside an abandoned truck. They believe human smugglers left them there.

Here's Rafael Romo with more on that.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a complaint that first led police to the migrants. The complaint had to do with an abandoned semi-truck on the highway in Guatemala's Escuintla province, less than an hour away from Guatemala City, the capital.

When police first arrived Saturday morning, they could hear screams coming from inside the semi-trucks cargo space. And once they opened it, they found 126 undocumented migrants altogether.

According to police, the vast majority 106 were from Haiti, but there were also some from faraway places. 11 had come from Nepal in South Asia and nine from Ghana in West Africa.

According to the Guatemalan National Civil police, they were all given aid before being transferred to shelters that belong to the country's migration institute. They also made it clear that all 126 migrants will eventually be returned to their countries of origin.

How did the migrants end up in an abandoned container? Police say they were left there by so called coyotes as human smugglers are known in Central America and Mexico.

Guatemalan authorities say so far this year, they have detained nearly 6,000 migrants of different nationalities in their territory, most of whom were traveling by land with the hope of reaching the United States.

The flow of migrants has continued unabated through Central America and Mexico in spite of efforts by the governments of the region to stop them and the fact that the U.S. government deported thousands of Haitians last month, who had made it all the way to its southern border. Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


CURNOW: Skyrocketing gas prices, fuel shortages, and now, this fire at a storage facility. A hard look at the global energy crisis.

Plus, the World Health Organization identifies what it calls the biggest health threat facing humanity. And it's not COVID or even cancer.


CURNOW: As many as 3,000 people on Spain's La Palma Island are under lockdown after lava sparked a fire at a cement victory on Monday.


Authorities say the lockdown is to protect people from the potentially toxic fumes and smoke.

The volcano on La Palma has been erupting nonstop now for more than three weeks. The lava has destroyed more than 1,000 buildings and hundreds of hectares of crops, like bananas, avocados, and vineyards.

And an energy crisis is unfolding in key parts of the world. It's leaving people in the dark, threatening industry, and slowing down the global economy.

In China, there is not enough coal right now to meet its industrial needs. The latest problem is the heavy rains that have flooded coal mines.

In Europe, wholesale gas prices are up 400 percent this year. British factories are warning they can't afford to stay open.

And oil and gas prices are at seven-year highs in the U.S. Despite White House calls for OPEC and its allies to ramp up production, they are not offering any relief.

And then, in Lebanon, severe fuel shortages are causing massive blackouts. And this sure won't help. A fire broke out in one of Lebanon's main oil storage facilities, just days after the national electric grid went dark.

The country's energy minister said 250,000 liters of gas were lost. It happened when fuel was being moved to an army storage tank. It's not clear what caused the fire.

And the World Health Organization says the biggest health threat to humanity is not the coronavirus. It is climate change. In a new report, the WHO is urging governments to take action on 10 fronts. Jacqueline Howard has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH CORRESPONDENT: This report is one of the most urgent calls for action that we've seen from the World Health Organization on the climate crisis.

Now, in the report, WHO outlines 10 recommendations to address not only the climate crisis but its health consequences. Those recommendations include committing to a green recovery from the pandemic; placing health and social justice at the heart of the United Nations climate talks; and transitioning to renewable energy.

WHO also calls for protecting and restoring nature, and promoting sustainable food production.

And in the report, WHO's director-general writes this. Quote, "The health arguments for rapid climate action have never been clear. I hope this report can guide policy makers and practitioners from across sectors and across the world to implement the transformative changes needed. Let's get to work."

And this report comes just a few weeks ahead of the United Nations climate change conference, COP 26. So, we'll be keeping an eye on the work being discussed there and being done during those climate talks.

Back to you.


CURNOW Thank you so much.

So U.S. federal prosecutors say a married couple accused of spying are a flight risk and need to be held in jail before trial. The Justice Department also warns they could destroy evidence if set free.

Now, details remain scarce, but the FBI's sting operation -- about the FBI's sting operation that nabbed the pair, but what we do know about the case is bizarre. And Jessica Schneider has some of the details.

Jessica, what can you tell us?


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of the country's most closely guarded nuclear submarine secrets, inside a peanut butter sandwich.

Over the weekend, the FBI and U.S. Navy arresting Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana for attempting to sell classified information to a foreign government, alleging the couple used methods out of a spy novel to pass the information to an undercover FBI agent.

After messaging with agents for months, the couple allegedly left a memory card at a dead drop location in West Virginia in June, where the FBI found it, wrapped in plastic and placed between two slices of bread on a half of a peanut butter sandwich. Allegedly inside, details of militarily-sensitive design elements,

operating parameters, and performance characteristics of Virginia class submarine reactors.


Virginia class submarines are some of the most advanced stealth submarines in the world, capable of staying underwater for months at a time. They can engage targets at sea and on land, as well as gather intelligence and deploy Navy SEALs.

The Toebbes allegedly conducted two more dead drops. The final one in August, with a memory card in a chewing gum package that allegedly contained schematic designs for the Virginia class submarine.

The FBI says that Jonathan Toebbe has been a Navy employee since 2012. He worked at a lab in Pennsylvania on nuclear propulsion, where he maintained a top-secret security clearance.

His wife, Diana, is a teacher in Annapolis, Maryland, who allegedly acted as a lookout for her husband during the dead drops.

In one of his messages, Jonathan Toebbe allegedly wrote he "was extremely careful to gather the files I possess slowly and naturally in the routine of my job. We received training on warning signs to spot insider threats."

DAVID SANGER, CNN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It was a mix of very sophisticated methods used by Mr. Toebbe and his wife and some really sloppy ones.

SCHNEIDER: The couple allegedly wrote that they were seeking a total of $5 million in cryptocurrency. The FBI says they paid the Toebbes $100,000 over the course of the investigation.

(on camera): The biggest mystery remains, who did this nuclear engineer think he was sending these government secrets to? The FBI only refers to it as Country One in the court records. And that country alerted the FBI, which then began its undercover investigation.

Toebbe and his wife will appear in federal court on Tuesday. Prosecutors are asking that they remain locked up, calling them a flight risk and saying they could destroy evidence.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: And still ahead here on CNN, preparing to launch. We hear from "Star Trek's" Captain Kirk and the Blue Origin crew about their flight to space.

Plus, 50 years later, Paul McCartney says he is setting the record straight about who broke up the Fab Four.


CURNOW: We are counting down to Wednesday's Blue Origin launch which will carry "Star Trek's" Captain Kirk into space. Yes, 90-year-old William Shatner will join three others on an 11-minute ride to the internationally recognized boundary of space.

The launch was delayed from Tuesday over weather concerns. Shatner and the crew spoke with CNN's Erica Hill about the journey.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: William Shatner, a lot of excitement, as I know you know, about this trip, especially for you. I was really struck by how candid you've been in some of your interview, that you were a little terrified, you said, a little frightened. Obviously excited. This weather delay, is that helping or hurting those feelings?

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: It's extending that feeling. It's -- you know, it's a combination of -- of things. It's not all terror, although there's some bubbling elements -- elements of that.


But, also, I'm thoroughly versed in the safety of what we're doing. We've been spending days here in and out of these very difficult chairs. It s a great workout, getting in and out of these prone chairs. And -- and we've been lectured and told about the safety procedures.

And so that adds an element of surcease from the niggling elements of danger. I feel comfortable, but I'm also uncomfortable.

I'll be very happy when we go up and we're in weightlessness, and we know we're safe, because everything else should be all right, and we have that moment of inspiration, which I feel will be there when we're looking into the vastness of the universe.

HILL: Rel quickly, before I let you all go, there's a lot of talk about are you or are you not an astronaut after a flight like this? So I'll just go down the line. Glen, you go can go first. Then down to Audrey. Will you consider yourselves an astronaut once you're back on planet Earth?

GLEN DE VRIES, MICROBIOLOGIST: I'm going to consider myself a changed person. And it doesn't really matter what you want to call me.

HILL: Audrey?

AUDREY POWERS, BLUE ORIGIN, VICE PRESIDENT OF MISSION AND FLIGHT OPERATIONS: I will. I'll take the astronaut title. I very much appreciate being held in that -- in that club.

HILL: William Shatner, astronaut? How's the sound of that?

SHATNER: A small -- small "A." Followed by two "S's." It's a little jeopardizing here.

CHRIS BOSHUIZEN, FOUNDER OF PLANET LABS: I don't think it's fair to call this tourism yet. It's too early in -- in this new public space age, for us to call this tourism. There is risks, and I think all of us have made a decision to be part of this flight, and to be pioneers to help open the door for space for everyone else. But, you know, this is space exploration. This is the first steps into space for the human race.


CURNOW: Well, Blue Origin's New Shepard is scheduled to launch at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday. Godspeed to them.

And here's a story. Paul McCartney says it was John Lennon who decided the Beatles couldn't work it out.




CURNOW: For decades now, fans have debated who was responsible for the band's breakup in 1970, with many blaming McCartney.

But now, more than 50 years later, McCartney says it was Lennon who instigated the split. And he called it the most difficult period of his life.

McCartney's revelations part of an upcoming interview with BBC Radio.

So thanks for watching CNN. I am Robyn Curnow, live in Atlanta. I'll be back in about 15 minutes' with more news. I'm going to hand you over to the good folks at WORLD SPORT. That's next.