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Kazakhstan's President Says Situation "Stabilized" after Deadly Rallies; Australian Open 2022; Germany Imposes Tougher COVID-19 Restrictions; COVID-19 Cases in China Rising; Ahmaud Arbery's Killers Get Life in Prison; Trailblazing Actor and Activist Sidney Poitier Dies at 94; Japanese Women Changing Sumo. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers, joining us from all around the world, I'm Michael Holmes, appreciate your company.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Kazakhstan, still on edge: mass unrest, replaced with an eerie calm, after the president gives a shoot to kill order.

A new twist in Novak Djokovic's visa limbo. We now have leaked video, from Tennis Australia's boss.

And we remember the life of Hollywood's first Black leading man, the legendary actor Sidney Poitier.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: We begin in Kazakhstan, where security forces are under orders to kill protesters without warning. That order, coming from the nation's president on Friday, after days of deadly, antigovernment protest.

He now says, the situation has stabilized, in the largest city, Almaty. Our local journalist, telling CNN, security forces are in charge of the government buildings, that were, probably, burned during protest.

Still, the U.S. has approved a voluntary departure of nonessential staff from its consulate. Meanwhile, more troops from a Russian-led military alliance are coming in. The group says the number of what it calls peacekeepers, will grow to about 3,600. The U.S. is asking why they are needed in the first place.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It would seem to me that the Kazak authorities in government, certainly, have the capacity to deal, appropriately, with protests and to do so in a way that respects the rights of protesters, while maintaining law and order.

So, it is unclear why they feel the need for any outside assistance. So we are trying to learn more about it. I think one lesson, in recent history, is that, once Russians are in your house, sometimes it's very difficult to get them to leave.


HOLMES: Scott McLean is monitoring the situation in Kazakhstan, joins me, live from London.

What is the status of the protest, there Scott?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michael. It's difficult to get firm information from inside of the country, because, as we know, over the last few days, the internet has been shut down.

The president had promised to restore the internet piecemeal and that seems to be happening in places like the capital but not in Almaty, where we saw those scenes of violence break out.

We know, from many indications, protests in a lot of cities remain peaceful. Obviously, not the case in Almaty, though. We did get a dispatch from a journalist yesterday, who walked around the city, saw the military checkpoints you mentioned, where they were firing warning shots at anyone who got too close.

They saw bodies, with bullet holes in them, the remains of a looted gun store. People, out, trying to buy essentials. What they did not see were protesters. Any organized protest. It is difficult to blame people.

Of course, there are many indications there is a violent streak within the opposition, as we saw in Almaty. But the president has taken upon himself, now, to use that as an opportunity to brand all protesters as, what he calls, foreign trained or foreign influenced, at least, gangsters and terrorists.

When it comes to terrorists, you don't negotiate with them, he says. He says you have to kill them, hence the shoot to kill order. We know, overnight, Thursday, to Friday, there were sounds of heavy gunfire in Almaty, the government described that as a counter-terrorism operation.

Surely, many members of the opposition may describe that somewhat differently. State media is reporting almost 4,000 people have been detained and we know many people have been killed as well.

At the moment, it seems like the government have succeeded in restoring some order. Certainly, they have in Almaty. With the president likely has not succeeded in doing, Michael, is quelling the unrest and discontent within the country, about not just about gas prices but also about economic inequality and corruption as well.

HOLMES: Yes, some deep-seated and long-standing grievances.

This presence of the Russian, so-called peacekeepers, on the ground, has some outside Kazakhstan concerned. I guess, especially given what Russia has done in Ukraine.

What do we know about the potential plans Russia has in the country?


MCLEAN: Still, this is very much an open question. These are Russian troops, part of a military alliance of ex-Soviet countries, maybe Russia's answer to NATO in some ways. This is actually the first time this alliance has acted as a collective. Their response was quite swift. So, troops and equipment, they are now on the ground.

From official statements we've been getting from this alliance, it seems like they are saying, they'll have a light touch, will be there only as long as necessary, they're there to generally, try to keep the peace and to protect government buildings.

You heard Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, saying, warning, in some ways, to the Kazakhs that, once Russians are inside your house, sometimes, it is difficult to actually get them to leave and to go home.

This is not -- Kazakhstan, certainly, is not an East versus West influence war, by any stretch. Kazakhstan is well within Russia's sphere of influence.

If there is an opportunity, at all for Russia here, it may just be to further solidify that influence, especially since there are some indications that the current president is keen to exert his influence from his predecessor, who was in power for several decades and, still, holds some significant influence within the country, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, indeed. Scott, thank you, Scott McLean, appreciate your update there.

Russia, meanwhile, of course, has been quick to show its support for the government amid the violence. The country's defense ministry saying, nine Russian military transport aircraft landing in Kazakhstan and more are on the way; many more, they say.

This comes after NATO allies met in Brussels and announced, they are committed to a united response over Russia's aggression toward Ukraine. CNN's Nic Robertson, with the latest, from Moscow.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: With that extraordinary session of NATO foreign ministers, the NATO secretary- general Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia continues to build up troops on the border of Ukraine and bring in more military hardware, including artillery pieces.

He said that the NATO foreign ministers are absolutely united in their position, happy to have talks with Russia. However, Russia's demand that NATO should deny Ukraine membership was off the table, he said.

Russia, he described, has put itself in a position where it is not an apparently trustworthy interlocutor because of its invasion of neighbors in the past, because of the demands that it is putting on the table and because it is ramping up troops.

And that, he said, leads to a very dangerous situation.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: The challenge is that, when you see this gradual military buildup, combined with the threatening rhetoric, combined with the track record of Russia, that have, actually, used force against neighbors before -- Georgia and Ukraine.

The capabilities, the rhetoric and the track record, of course, that sends a message that is a real risk for a new, armed conflict in Europe.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who was part of that meeting, said that Russia is creating a false narrative by saying that it is U.S. forces, NATO forces, that are the threat to Russia, close to Russia's border.

He said that what Russia is trying to do at the moment by taking this twin track approach, of talking to the United States, talking to NATO separately, of giving them separate security demands, he said that is an effort to divide NATO.


BLINKEN: Russia is now demanding that both the United States and NATO sign treaties to withdraw NATO forces stationed in the territory of allies of settled Eastern Europe and to prohibit Ukraine from ever joining NATO.

They want to draw us into a debate about NATO, rather than focus on the matter at hand, which is their aggression toward Ukraine. We won't be diverted from that issue.


ROBERTSON: So, NATO and the U.S. in alignment right now; NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg saying that they had to be prepared for diplomatic failure. And if that is the case, very strong and tough sanctions on Russia would follow.

But how to solve this diplomatically really isn't clear. Threading that needle, finding something that President Putin can take away from the talks, that he can feel is a success, given it has set such a high bar and something that is not going to divide the NATO allies, that is the tough challenge -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: The head of Tennis Australia, issuing a video to his staff, addressing the controversy over Novak Djokovic. It is the first time we have heard from him since Djokovic's visa was, unexpectedly, revoked as he arrived in the country for the Australian Open. We will have more on that, in a moment.

Djokovic, of course, defending the men's singles champion.


HOLMES: He also made his first public comments on Friday, thanking his fans, as he remained contained at an immigration center in Melbourne.

We have also learned, the Czech player, Renata Voracova, had her visa revoked as well. The Czech government said she has decided to withdraw from the tournament and leave Australia.




HOLMES: Coming up next, countries across Europe scramble to contain the spread of the Omicron variant as soaring cases tax hospital systems. We'll have a live report from London just ahead.

Also, how the U.S. is dealing with its own soaring numbers of Omicron driven cases and the frustration growing over its changing isolation guidelines. We will be right back.





HOLMES: COVID cases fueled by the Omicron variant are running rampant across Europe, France reporting more than 328,000 cases on Friday, just shy of the record set just a few days ago.

The country working to increase vaccinations; the health minister says 230,000 people, including more than 20,000 children under the age of 12, have received their first vaccine dose just since Monday.

Meanwhile, Germany imposing tougher restrictions as the Omicron variant spreads. Even those who are fully vaccinated will be required to show proof of a negative test to enter restaurants, cafes and bars. Only those who have received booster shots will be exempt.

For more on all of that let's bring in Nada Bashir in London for us.

Nada, good to see you. Records still being set in Europe. Bring us up to speed. NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER: Absolutely, Michael. As we continue to see

these rising figures, European leaders are pushing to tighten those restrictions and focusing on their vaccination campaigns.

As you mention, in France, they are looking at transforming their pass into more of a vaccination pass. Citizens have to prove that they've had the vaccine to access bars, cafes and restaurants, as opposed to proving that they have a negative COVID test.

In Italy those over 50 years old are mandated to get the vaccine. Otherwise, they could face a hefty penalty or even a suspension of pay from the workplace if they don't comply.

And in Germany, we are seeing those measures being tightened once again. We are now learning that people will have to prove that they had a negative COVID test, of course, to access indoor public places. But what they're saying now is many people will still have to do that even if they have been vaccinated.

What is required now is that booster jab. That is the key now being pushed forward by the European leaders. In Germany, even if you are recovered or were fully vaccinated, if you want to go to a restaurant, a cafe or a bar and many other indoor venues, you will have to prove that you had the booster jab.

There has been some backlash; we have seen some protests in Europe for the past days and weeks. And we could be seeing more protests today in parts of France, Italy and Germany in response to this tightening of restrictions. Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, it's not going away.

I'm just curious, what have been the impacts of workers calling out sick in big numbers across all industries, including critical ones like health care?

I know it's been a problem in the U.K.

BASHIR: It's been a huge problem in the U.K.; in the week up until January 2nd, we saw the absences in health care areas and hospitals up by nearly 60 percent and several health care regions have declared major incidences as a result of staffing shortages, which is a serious concern.

We've heard from Britain's largest nursing union, calling on the government to implement tougher restrictions to mitigate the impacts of these staffing shortages we are seeing.

And in London, there have been major incidences declared. We are seeing military personnel to support hospitals now. We saw that in previous waves of the pandemic. This is a reflection of how serious the situation is for hospitals.

We've heard the NHS Confederation describing the situation as a perfect storm, with both cases and patient admissions rising at an alarming rate. The government has said it's looking at ways to mitigate this impact, looking at speeding up the process for overseas nurses to register to work in the U.K., making it easier for health care workers to transfer across to different hospitals to fulfill the demand.

And, of course, they are really pushing for that vaccination campaign to ease pressure on the NHS, with more than 35 million booster doses administered so far. Michael.

HOLMES: Nada Bashir with the very latest from, Europe thank you we appreciate it.


HOLMES: Now China's outbreaks are rising, 95 locally transmitted infections on Friday. Officials are saying new cases are being detected across seven cities. About half of them from the city of Xi'an, which is in its third week of a strict lockdown, banning millions of residents from leaving their homes unless for mass testing.

And COVID case numbers soaring across the U.S. as well, infections now averaging more than 660,000 per day. That is an all-time high.

Child hospitalizations are at record levels as well but there is more hope on the vaccine front. Nearly two-thirds of the eligible population, everyone aged 5 and older, now fully vaccinated.

The Omicron variant complicating more than just health statistics in the U.S., it has led to recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control which many are calling confusing. And the director is facing sharp criticism from the White House and experts within the CDC itself. CNN's Gabe Cohen explains.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: As we've articulated before, CDC is working on updating --

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky facing renewed criticism from within the White House and her own agency after yet another guidance gaffe.

A source telling CNN that CDC scientists are increasingly frustrated with Walensky's handling of guidance. And between her circumventing their vetting process for guidelines and the public criticism, moral at the agency is sinking.

WALENSKY: It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.

COHEN (voice-over): It comes after the CDC cut the COVID isolation period from 10 days to five, making no mention of a negative test, drawing pushback from health experts and contradiction from the surgeon general.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: They have certainly received feedback and questions about the role of testing.

COHEN (voice-over): As well as Dr. Anthony Fauci.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I'm saying it's something that absolutely should be considered. And I believe the CDC is going to clarify that.

COHEN (voice-over): They did. Same people can test if they want to. But if they test positive, they should isolate for five more days. The head of the American Medical Association says all of this is not only confusing but risking further spread of the virus.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: I think the problem here isn't so much the guidance, it's the lack of effective communication about the guidance.

COHEN (voice-over): Dr. Tom Frieden was CDC director under the Obama administration.

FRIEDEN: And yes, there are some judgment calls, so be frank about them.

COHEN (voice-over): Now CNN has learned Dr. Walensky is in media training. For months, she's been meeting with a consultant to improve communication skills. Today, she held a rare solo news conference.

WALENSKY: This is hard, and I am committed and to continue to improve as we learn more about the science and to communicate that with all of you.

COHEN (voice-over): The well-regarded infectious disease expert had no government experience before President Biden appointed her and has often seemed out of step with the White House and Dr. Fauci, leading to some abrupt and confusing changes and guidance.

In May, she announced vaccinated people could stop wearing masks indoors, drawing quick criticism that it was too soon.

And last February, the White House had to clarify Walensky's comment that teachers did not need to be fully vaccinated for schools to reopen.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity.

COHEN (voice-over): Now Walensky is under fire for not following the CDC's own playbook for explaining new guidance. A Biden COVID adviser tells me the CDC has got to do a better job communicating what they're doing and why. And that has to happen quickly.

PSAKI: That's what happens when you lead with the data and the science and not lead with a clear communications plan.

COHEN: And Dr. Friedman is urging the White House to move their COVID- 19 briefings from D.C. to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta to make it less partisan and to let the subject matter experts control more of the public messaging.

I'll also note that the Biden COVID-19 advisor I spoke to, told me that this is a larger coordination problem across the administration, between the White House, the CDC, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health. And blame here can't solely fall on Dr. Walensky -- Gabe Cohen, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Kazakhstan reeling from deadly antigovernment protests. When we come, back we will see at what's sent massive crowds to the streets in the first place and whether the rallies can keep going in the face of the brutal crackdown. We will be right back.





HOLMES: Welcome back, I'm Michael Holmes, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Returning now to the violent unrest in Kazakhstan, the nation's president says the situation has stabilized with the help of Russian- led security forces. Deadly demonstrations erupted in the city this week, sparked by rising fuel prices.

The Kazakhstan leader, calling protesters gangsters and terrorists, vowing to show no mercy in dealing with them. CNN's Nina dos Santos reports.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Kazakhstan rarely makes headlines in the West but that changed when these protests over rising living costs were met with brutal repression.

KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN (through translator): I gave an order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill without warning.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): As so-called peacekeepers from Russia and other post-Soviet states hit the streets of the country's biggest city, Almaty, there's deep unease at where the Central Asian state is now heading.

ANNETTE BOHR, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, RUSSIA AND EURASIA, CHATHAM HOUSE: The West is going to be keeping an eye on Russian imperial ambitions and perhaps they could start stationing troops there. But nonetheless, they could -- they could make several power plays.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Home to 19 million people spread over the ninth largest sovereign land mass, Kazakhstan stands between two increasingly autocratic superpowers, Russia to the north and China in the east.

Economically, it still has one foot in the past, relying on Russia for most of its trade whilst also hosting the Baikonur Cosmodrome, crucial to the Kremlin space program.

Large deposits of coal and natural gas, as well as a 3 percent chunk of the planet's oil reserves and 40 percent of its uranium, mean that Kazakhstan's people could be rich. But thanks to a ruling elite in power since the fall of Communism, few sharing that wealth.

The number of billionaires almost doubled in Kazakhstan during the pandemic, according to some estimates, while the country scored just 38 out of 100 in a recent corruption index.

This week's protests will only further deter foreign investments needed to kickstart the economy and reduce unemployment.

BOHR: It forms a centerpiece for China's Belt and Road Initiative and China has invested over $26 billion in oil and other investments in Kazakhstan. There are substantial investments on the part of Western international oil companies.

I think the general population or people tend to be unaware that Kazakhstan is, of course, a leading oil and gas exporter and producer.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): With the country in disarray, this former energy minister, an oligarch, sentenced in absentia in Kazakhstan for corruption charges that he denies, is making his own bid as a self- styled opposition figure from Paris.

MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV, KAZAKHSTAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): In literally three days, the revolution is taking place.


ABLYAZOV (through translator): There's a real revolution, not only from the point of view of regime change -- regime change has not yet taken place -- but the revolution has taken place in people's minds.

People have understood that they are not weak, that they can force the regime to listen.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): For now, it's unclear what the future holds for Kazakhstan and the country's stymied potential. What is becoming clearer is the world is watching and is worried -- Nina Dos Santos, CNN, in London.


HOLMES: We heard in Nina's report Annette Bohr and she joins us now, too. She's an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House.

Thank you for being with us. So, the president giving shoot to kill orders, seeming to empty the streets of protesters.

Do you sense, the movement has longer term momentum, given those deep- seated and long-term grievances?

Where do you see it headed?

BOHR: Definitely. In fact, his order to shoot to kill was indiscriminate, aimed at both peaceful and violent protesters. Really, it only belies the weakness of his own position of power.

And, also, we must bear in mind, the fact that his own security services, many of them switching sides, which was a forerunner to his calling in collective security, through security organization peacekeepers. So this is a --


HOLMES: Yes, and, to that point, Russian troops in the country, boots on the ground, central Asia seeing plenty of unrest, recently, from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and so on.

Is this instability another threat to Russia's so-called sphere of influence?

BOHR: Indeed. Russia cannot, simply, allow Kazakhstan to be in a state of violent unrest. It shares a 7,000-kilometer border with it and it is an incredibly important political and economic ally.

We know that Russia has much trouble on its other flanks, not to mention Belarus and 100,000 troops amassed in Ukraine. So simply, this is something that Moscow cannot allow. On the other hand, having entered Kazakhstan, it will, most likely, seek to turn the current position to its advantage and further entrench its position as security guarantor.

HOLMES: It is interesting, because, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian nationalists have long coveted parts of northern Kazakhstan. And there are ethnic Russian populations in that part of the country.

Much, as we saw in Ukraine's Crimea, which Russian, of course, seized.

I guess the question is, could Russia use turmoil in Kazakhstan as a pretext to take or have a footprint in parts of the north of the country?

BOHR: I would be a bit cautious in that regard. There has been a large exodus of Russians in recent years from the northern regions. So, the majority is much less than it was in the past.

Also, Kazakhstan had been moving away from Russia, progressively and had done a very successful work, in terms of its multivectoring policy. Calling in Russia, now, has really done a lot of damage to Kazakhstan's international reputation and its domestic reputation.

So, Russia will seek to use its leverage in other ways. But it is unlikely to be successful, in terms of making any play for territory, in the north. But it could demand for recognition of Crimea or to make Russian an official second language, as is the case in Kyrgyzstan (ph).

HOLMES: Yes, and krillig (ph) as well.

We heard in Nina's piece and you mentioned it, too, the wealth that this country has. Yet, how divided it is, economically, the elite, versus the ordinary people.

How have the country's leaders, grossly, miscalculated these issues?

BOHR: Yes. Indeed. In fact, we should really keep in mind that there are 2 conflicts, playing out at this point. One is between the government and the population. The other is between the elites themselves.

But you are absolutely right. The government has brought this crisis upon themselves and severely miscalculated the degree of disillusionment and anger on the part of the population. And the general perception of misrule and corruption and, in particular, that the country's immense oil generated wealth has, in no way, been distributed fairly.

Much of this is linked to Nursultan Nazarbayev and the way in which he has monopolized -- the extended family, that is -- has monopolized control of all sectors, from roads to energy.


HOLMES: Of course, people in Kazakhstan have long spoken of that kind of anger, once it's out. What would placate people protesting?

And what are the chances that government would cede to anything they ask for?

BOHR: Indeed. This is the problem. The demonstrations began peacefully; there were clear demands, of course, that became violent from Wednesday on. But before that, the demands were for something that the government was, very unlikely, to cede to. That would be to allow fully, free and fair, elections.

Today, Kazakhstan has yet to hold one. And to really, allow the appointment of local officials, to seriously address the socioeconomic grievances, to root out corruption, allow demonstrations, all things that the current government is unlikely, to grant.

HOLMES: Fascinating conversation. Annette Bohr, thank you so much, really appreciate it.

BOHR: You are welcome.

HOLMES: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, we will hear powerful statements from the family of Ahmaud Arbery, at the sentencing hearing for his killers, who now face life in prison.




WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I sat in that courtroom for five weeks straight, but I knew that we would come out with a victory. I never doubted it.


HOLMES: That was Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black jogger, who was chased and killed, by three white men in South Georgia. All 3 were, sentenced to life in prison, with two having no chance of parole. More now from CNN's Ryan Young.


JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, CHATHAM COUNTY, GEORGIA: Today, the defendants are being held accountable for their actions.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two of the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Travis and Gregory McMichael received life without the possibility of parole.

WALMSLEY: After Ahmaud Arbery fell, the McMichaels turned their backs to get a disturbing image and they walked away. This was a killing. It was callous.

YOUNG: William Bryan Jr. sentenced to serve life with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

WALMSLEY: He had grave concerns that what had occurred should not have occurred. And I think that does make Mr. Bryan's situation a little bit different. However, Mr. Bryan has been convicted of felony murder.

YOUNG (voice-over): Before reading the sentences, Judge Walmsley paused for one minute.

WALMSLEY: I want to focus (ph) on the concept of time. It's what I'm going to do, is I'm going to sit silently for one minute. And I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores.


YOUNG (voice-over): And the court heard powerful statements from Ahmaud Arbery's family.

COOPER-JONES: I laid you to rest. I told you I love you and, someday, somehow, I would get you justice.

YOUNG (voice-over): His mother spoke directly to her son and to the men responsible for his death.

COOPER-JONES: These men have chosen to lie and attack my son and his surviving family. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency. This wasn't a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son when they couldn't sufficiently scare him or intimidate him. They killed him.

YOUNG (voice-over): Taking aim at a defense attorney's comments during the trial...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His long, dirty toenails.

YOUNG (voice-over): -- about her son's toenails.

COOPER-JONES: I wish he would have cut and cleaned his toenails before he went out for that jog that day. I guess he would have if he knew he would be murdered.

YOUNG (voice-over): Arbery's family was clear, they wanted the maximum sentence possible.

MARCUS ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: Me and my family, we got to live with his death the rest of our life. We'll never see Ahmaud again. So, I feel they should stay behind them bars the rest of their life because they didn't give him a chance.

JASMINE ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S SISTER: The loss of Ahmaud has devastated me and my family. So, I'm asking that the men that killed him be given the maximum sentence available to the court.

YOUNG (voice-over): Last November the McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of murder after chasing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in their vehicles while he jogged in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, killing him after they say they thought they saw Arbery inside an unfinished home on February 23rd, 2020.

It took 2.5 months before arrests were made, after video Bryan took of the murder was released and went viral.

YOUNG: And these three men face additional federal charges. That case is scheduled to be heard in February. So, it's not over for them just yet.

A lot of people are paying attention to this, especially because the prosecutor, who was originally involved in this case, faces her own set of charges that are connected to this case -- Ryan Young, Brunswick, Georgia.


HOLMES: Now in the world of film, the actor Sidney Poitier had few equals. He was a charismatic leading man and the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor. Sidney Poitier passed away on Thursday at the age of 94. CNN's Sara Sidner reminds us he became a giant in the struggle for human rights.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sidney Poitier was so much more than a film legend. He is revered not just because of what he did onscreen but also because of his tremendous impact offscreen as a champion of civil rights.

SIDNEY POITIER, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: We believe in the essential dignity of every human being.

SIDNER (voice-over): The son of a Bahamian tomato farmer, Poitier lived a life of firsts, the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor and one of the first Black people to become a true Hollywood star among the greatest of all time.

POITIER: We have lots and lots and lots of African American actors. Now when we didn't have any, I appeared, not because I brought so much but because the time was right.

SIDNER (voice-over): But his career almost ended before it ever began. As a teenager, Poitier auditioned for the American Negro Theater, but he was quickly thrown out because he couldn't read. He was tone deaf. And he had a thick Bahamian accent.

POITIER: He says, "You're no actor."

We got next to the door, he opened it, pushed me out and slammed it.

SIDNER (voice-over): A determined Poitier would spend months perfecting his acting skills and modifying his speaking voice. His hard work would pay off in a big way.

POITIER, "NOAH CULLEN": I was right. I know I was right.

SIDNER (voice-over): In the 1950s, he appeared in more than a dozen films, beginning with "No Way Out" and including an Oscar-nominated performance in "The Defiant Ones."

However, it was his portrayal of a former G.I. in the 1963 movie, "Lilies of the Field," that broke Hollywood's color barrier, earning him the coveted Oscar for Best Actor.

Poitier never overcame his tone deafness, lip-syncing the song, "Amen," in the famous "Lilies scene." The songwriter, Jester Hairston, actually did the singing.


SIDNER (voice-over): Poitier was considered a bankable star in 1967, starring in a landmark film, "To Sir with Love" ...

POITIER, "MARK THACKERAY": Those kids are devils incarnate. I tried everything.

SIDNER (voice-over): -- playing characters that would force audiences to confront racial prejudices.

POITIER, "VIRGIL TIBBS": They call me Mr. Tibbs.

SIDNER (voice-over): But he would also challenge the Hollywood establishment, forcing a change in his iconic role as detective Virgil Tibbs in the 1967 Academy Award-winning "In the Heat of the Night," because of a scene that would require him to acquiesce to a racist character.

ROD STEIGER, ACTOR, "GILLESPIE": I'm going to take you over to Brownsville and put you on the bus myself.

"VIRGIL TIBBS": You aren't taking me anywhere, you dig?

You're holding the wrong man.

SIDNER (voice-over): That same year, he would star in the watershed film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," alongside Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.


SIDNER (voice-over): The film not only depicted a successful interracial relationship; it also foreshadowed future progress in America.

SPENCER TRACY, ACTOR, "MATT DRAYTON": Have you given any thought to the problems your children are going to have?

POITIER, "JOHN PRENTICE": Yes. And they'll have some. And we'll have the children; otherwise, I don't know what you would call it. But you couldn't call it a marriage.

"MATT DRAYTON": Is that the way Joey feels?

"JOHN PRENTICE": She feels that every single one of our children will be President of the United States and they'll all have colorful administrations.

SIDNER (voice-over): It is only fitting that, in 2009, Sidney Poitier would be presented with the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Poitier once called his driving purpose to make himself a better person. He did. And he made us all a little bit better along the way.


HOLMES: Sidney Poitier was 94 years old.




HOLMES: Now when you think of a sumo wrestler, you might picture a massive Japanese man but probably never a woman. That is because women have been forbidden from competing in the famous sport. That might be changing, though. CNN's Don Riddell with more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is sumo, the national sport of Japan. Their wrestlers are hard to miss, with their topknots and iconic loincloths, their hulking bodies and high impact bouts.

It is an ancient sport, dating back more than 1,000 years and, through all that time, very little has changed. As a professional sport, women have always been banned.

But changing attitudes in Japan mean there might now be a future for girls and women in sumo.

Senna Kajiwara has been learning sumo since she was 8 years old. She is also ready to topple the barriers to entry of a male dominated sport.

SENNA KAJIWARA, SUMO CHAMPION (through translator): People tend to think that sumo is just for boys and men. I think that is why they are usually surprised and even shocked when they find out I do it. If we get more girls and women in sumo, then we can level the playing field and make a living from it.

RIDDELL (voice-over): A number of scandals in recent years have tarnished the reputation of Japan's national sport. In 2018, when a city mayor collapsed in the ring, the women who were trying to save his life were asked to leave.


RIDDELL (voice-over): According to tradition, the supposedly impure women would pollute the sacred space of the dohyo. The man's life was saved but the incident sparked a backlash in Japan, prompting the Japan Sumo Association to apologize.

The following year, the inaugural national sumo championship was held in Tokyo. The event has been open to boys since 1984 but only now are girls aged between 8 and 12 getting their shot.

KAJIWARA (through translator): I do hurt myself sometimes, but I don't get scared at all when I'm in the ring.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Senna Kajiwara is the defending champion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sumo is Japan's national sport. Senna can be quite taciturn and earnest. The tournament can be determined in an instant. I think sumo suits her character.

RIDDELL (voice-over): The 12-year-old, making it to the final in 2021 but looked as though she was on the brink of defeat. However, she turned it around to and successfully, defended her title.

KAJIWARA (through translator): I was so nervous. I won the championship when I was in fourth grade, so I felt a lot of pressure and expectations this time. In the future, I want to keep up sumo and go as far as I can.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Don Riddell, CNN.


HOLMES: Good on her.

If the current state of world affairs with lockdowns and such, has got you down, you may try letting off some steam on an old car.


HOLMES (voice-over): This activity is called mindful smashing. It is a Dutch project, where you get a sledgehammer, or a crowbar and you pulverize a car. Organizers say business is up, thanks to frustration and anger, built up by a pandemic entering its third year. It works, according to this pair of car smashing enthusiasts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing to do these days because everything's closed. We can't work, because we own a bar and we're closed. So, we thought we would let some of the frustration go and smash a car.

HOLMES (voice-over): Netherlands has been under lockdown since a mid- December COVID outbreak and that looks like fun.


HOLMES: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I am Michael Holmes, you can follow me on, Twitter and Instagram, @HolmesCNN. Do stay with us, the news continues with Ivan Watson, in Hong Kong.