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Talks Between U.S. And Israel Could Happen On Monday; Humanitarian Aid Being Dropped Into Gaza; District Court Judge Slams Trump's Attacks On Merchan; Largest Crane On U.S. East Coast At Bridge Collapse Site; Evan Gershkovich Has Spent One Year Behind Bars In Russia; Pope Skips Service To Preserve Health For Weekend; March Madness. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 30, 2024 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To go out there and to see it up close, you realize just how daunting a task this is. You realize how difficult the work is ahead of us.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Cleanup operations are intensifying at the Baltimore bridge collapse. The largest crane on the East Coast is now on the scene. We'll look at what officials are saying about the timeline for clearing the wreckage and reopening the harbor.

Plus calls are strengthening for Israel to halt the war on Hamas amid a worsening humanitarian catastrophe. I'll speak to the head of an NGO who's joining other human rights groups petitioning Israel's high court to allow more aid to Gaza.

And March Madness is the gift that keeps on giving with big time upsets and dominance of the defending champs. We will look at the top moments from the Sweet 16.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from Atlanta this is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to send a negotiating team back to ceasefire and hostage release talks. The prime minister's office says that should happen in the coming days and as Netanyahu insists, the Israeli military is preparing to enter Rafah.

U.S. officials say separate talks with Israel about what happens next in Rafah could take place as soon as Monday. They were supposed to happen earlier this week but Netanyahu called them off after the U.S. refused to block a U.N. resolution, calling for a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages.

And Israel hasn't set a date for the Rafah operation to begin. There are more than 1 million Palestinians taking refuge in Rafah. Officials have said they plan to evacuate civilians before starting a ground offensive.

Meanwhile, Israel has been conducting strikes in Rafah for weeks. On Friday, a Rafah hospital official told CNN that 14 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house. Among them, four women and seven children.

Israel's defense minister says Israel will also defend itself outside of Gaza. Yoav Gallant says the IDF will pursue Hezbollah anywhere and everywhere, including in Beirut, in Damascus. This comes after Israeli airstrikes near Aleppo killed dozens of people, including five Hezbollah fighters.

CNN's Melissa Bell has more on the strikes in Syria and in Lebanon.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Israel claims that it's managed to kill one of the leading missile commanders in southern Lebanon. A missile commander of the Hezbollah. Hezbollah has been, for its part, has admitted that one of its members have been killed without specifying his rank.

From the point of view of Israel, this is considered a win but it also represents, given the exchange of fire along the Lebanese border both at from Lebanon into Israel this Friday but also from Israel into southern Lebanon beyond, since we're hearing from Reuters, that that is several dozen people who have believed to have been killed over in Syria.

What we've been hearing from Israeli officials and specifically from Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, is that Israel intends far more aggressively than it had before to pursue Hezbollah, where it needs to, not just in southern Lebanon but beyond.

Yoav Gallant saying that it is time that Israel strange changed its strategy. Now what we understand from American officials is that that had been made plain to them when he visited Washington earlier this week.

The United States extremely worried about what this may mean with Hezbollah, presenting a far more formidable foe they believe than does Hamas. It comes this ratcheting up of tension, violence along Israel's northernmost border, as there is some hope now for the hostage talks and their resumption.

We've heard from Benjamin Netanyahu that he is now going to be sending a delegation of Israeli officials back to Qatar and Egypt to resume those indirect talks in the hope that the remaining more than 130 Israeli hostages still in Hamas' hands might be released. And, of course, with that, that a six week ceasefire might yet be able

to take place -- Melissa Bell, CNN, in Jerusalem.


BRUNHUBER: The United States military says it dropped some 26 bundles of humanitarian aid into northern Gaza on Friday, containing more than 46,000 meals ready to eat.

The latest airdrop comes as the food shortage in Gaza is growing increasingly dire. Aid groups say the area could devolve into a full- blown famine within the next two months. And ordinary Gazans are feeling desperate.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hope to secure food today. We hope no one will stop us and that we will be able to get food with ease without having to crowd around the items. If we can at least get a can of beans or hummus to support ourselves, we hope that we will eat today.

For most people, hunger has consumed them. They have no energy anymore.


BRUNHUBER: The International Court of Justice is ordering Israel to take all necessary and effective measures to get basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza.


BRUNHUBER: Joining me now is Tania Hary, the executive director of Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. It's an Israeli NGO, founded in 2005, with the goal of protecting the rights and freedoms of Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza.

Thank you so much for being here with us. And so your NGO has joined with other human rights organizations to petition Israel's high court to allow more aid to Gaza. So explain why you're taking this action and the legal basis for this.

TANIA HARY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GISHA LEGAL CENTER: Yes, thanks so much for having me.

So you know, Israeli officials keep saying that they're not blocking aid to Gaza when, in effect, they are. There are mounting obstacles both on the inspection process and also on the distribution of aid within Gaza.

And really since the beginning, since October 7 and after the really horrific attacks by Hamas and others on Israelis, aid has been used as a weapon of war. It's being used to pressure, to punish the civilian population. And the most significant obstacle that we're seeing on the

distribution of aid is lack of safety, problems with what's called the deconfliction process. So that's allowing humanitarian convoys to travel through the Strip safely.

We're seeing aid being systematically denied to the north of Gaza, where some 300,000 people are now in the most catastrophic stages of hunger. They might already be facing famine.

So Gisha is leading a coalition of organizations in Israel. And we're basically calling on Israel's high court to order the Israeli government, the prime minister, the defense minister, the army to enable all access of humanitarian aid.

That includes equipment, that includes staff; we're calling on them even to open more crossings, land crossings between Israel and Gaza and to take on their responsibility as an occupying power.

BRUNHUBER: So these accusations that Israel isn't allowing enough aid in, as you say, they've been met by denials by the Israeli government and they also say that the health information is inaccurate, that people aren't starving.

And second of all, that it's Hamas that is stealing all the food.

Any truth to either of those assertions by Israel?

HARY: Yes, I'm afraid not. If you look at the landscape right now, the world's foremost experts on the question of famine have issued now two seminal reports on the situation.

All of the humanitarian organizations working on the ground, the E.U. and, of course, Palestinians themselves in Gaza are telling us they don't have enough food to eat. There's not enough medicine, medical equipment, staff in the hospitals.

The health system is on the verge of collapse. Actually, most of the hospitals aren't functioning. You only have about 10 hospitals out of 36 partially functioning, right now. To meet the devastating claim or the devastating reality of famine, you're going to need a multi-sector response.

It's not just about food, it's about water, it's about medical equipment, it's about staff. It's about providing medical services to children who are already suffering from severe malnutrition.

So these claims that Hamas is stealing the aid, look, of course, there are problems with people taking aid. That's a phenomenon that's known around the world. But what we're looking at is really a simple numbers issue, it's math. It's basic math.

What we've seen is that, in the last six months, the amount of aid that has come in is barely scratching the surface of what would come in in a normal month. So really, these claims are not founded and it's really a simple math issue.

There's just simply not enough to go around.

BRUNHUBER: Beyond the government's denials of the problem, there are large-scale efforts from some journalists, commentators, people online, to deny that there's any famine in Gaza in the first place.

But broadly is there support in Israel itself for Palestinians on this issue specifically?

Do they do they know the extent of the suffering in Gaza?

HARY: So that's a really great question. And one of the reasons why we filed this petition in the high court is because we think there needs to be more discussion inside of Israel about what's happening.


And you know, I have to say frankly, I'm not terribly optimistic about our chances at the court. I'm still hopeful that the justices will see the case for what it is and rule in our favor. But I do think what's important about this case is that it should spark more dialogue within Israel about what's happening.

Israelis are really living the horrors of October 7th over and over again. People are watching their own suffering, night after night on the news. And unfortunately, we're not seeing enough images. We're not given enough information about what's happening in Gaza.

And I know that must be hard for people around the world to understand. But really we're really focused on our own situation as Israelis. And so I think that that needs to change. And I think that, even if Israelis do see the suffering, of course, they're told it's Hamas' fault.

And from our perspective, of course, Hamas has a role to play in this, the international community has a role to play. But as Israelis, it's important to us that we take responsibilities for the choices that Israel has made in fighting this war.

And for the red lines, we think it's already crossed and that it's likely to cross if this continues.

BRUNHUBER: We'll leave it on that point. Tania Hary, thank you so much for speaking with us. Really appreciate it

HARY: Thank you for having me.


BRUNHUBER: And CNN has gathered a list of vetted organizations that are on the ground, responding to the humanitarian crisis in Israel and Gaza. You'll find details on how you can help at a special section of our website,

The Israeli military has acknowledged it shot two Palestinian men in Gaza, then buried their bodies with a bulldozer. The admission came after news outlet Al Jazeera published heavily edited video that says it shows the incident. And we have to warn you, this video is disturbing.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): So here, you can see one man walking along a beach. Al Jazeera reports that this man and another were waving what appeared to be white clothes. At one point, the man raises his hands in the air. Later, he falls to the ground apparently after being shot.

The video then cuts to a scene where an Israeli bulldozer is burying two bodies in sand and debris. It's not clear if these are the bodies of the two men shown earlier. Al Jazeera says they are.

The Israeli military says the video shows two separate incidents. And here is their statement.

"The first incident occurred in the southern part of the corridor after the suspect did not respond to a warning shot. The force fired to his direction and he was shot and slightly wounded."

The IDF says that man was released after receiving medical treatment and being questioned.

Regarding the second incident, the IDF says, "Two suspects with bags on their backs, observed our forces and approached them in a suspicious manner. After not responding to a warning shot, the forces conducted live fire toward them as a result of which they were killed.

"The bodies were moved from the area using the documented tool out of fear of there being explosives on the suspects and risk to the forces."

CNN has asked Al Jazeera for an unedited copy of the video.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is still trying to get the prosecutor kicked off the case in his Georgia election subversion trial. His legal team appealed the ruling allowing Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis to stay on the case.

Trump and several co-defendants asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to overturn the decision. They also want the entire Fulton County DA's office to be disqualified.

At an event Friday evening, Willis appeared to have referenced the judge's warning about her previous comments on race, stemming from a speech she made at a church earlier this year.

Now those comments, she said, her then lead prosecutor was being targeted because he's a Black man.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DA: Recently they tell me they don't like me to talk about wraith. Well, I'm going to talk about it anyway. Truth is, it's some challenges that come to being Black. And I see so much greatness in this city, that has so many great African American leaders. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: Trump's attorneys also filed responses Friday in the New York criminal case related to hush money payments. They said a recent request for clarification of the gag order in the case amounted to a request to expand the order and asked to file legal briefs against it.

It was put in place after Trump made threats against the judge and his daughter. Another sitting judge spoke to CNN's Kaitlan Collins about why that's so dangerous.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST (voice-over): You almost never hear from a sitting federal judge.

COLLINS: I wonder what made you speak out tonight and speak publicly.

COLLINS (voice-over): But in a rare interview with CNN, Senior U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who is deeply respected in Washington's legal circles, spoke out against Donald Trump's latest attacks on social media against a fellow member of the judiciary.


JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: I think it's important that as judges, we speak out and say things in reference to things that conceivably are going to impact on the process.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have a Trump-hating judge.

COLLINS (voice-over): Walton criticized Trump for his latest attacks on Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the former president's criminal trial relating to hush money payments.

WALTON: It's very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge and it's particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they're directed at one's family.

COLLINS (voice-over): After Merchan imposed a gag order limiting the former president from making statements about potential witnesses, jurors, attorneys and court staff but not him, Trump has been attacking his daughter on social media, including by name.

WALTON: We do these jobs because we're committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm.

COLLINS: Judge Walton was appointed by both Bush presidents and has spent more than 40 years on the bench but he noticed an increase in threats once he began hearing cases of January 6 criminal defendants.

I have received a greater number of threats as a result of that incident. This is a new phenomenon. I'm not saying that it didn't happen before but it was very rare that I would ever receive any type of a threat, regardless of what type of cases I was handling. And, unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

COLLINS (voice-over): Walton pointing to past murders of his judicial colleagues' family members, including New Jersey Judge Esther Salas' son and former Chicago Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother.

WALTON: Unfortunately, it's a reality that it's not inconceivable that something could happen. It's a reality that we live with but you try not to let it impact on your day-to-day life.

COLLINS (voice-over): But even in the midst of these threats, Walton says the law must endure.

WALTON: Even though threats may be made against you and against your family, you still have an obligation to ensure that everybody who comes into your courtroom is treated fairly, regardless of who they are or what they've done.

I think it's important, in order to preserve our democracy, that we maintain the rule of law. And the rule of law can only be maintained if we have independent judicial officers, who are able to do their job and ensure that the laws are, in fact, enforced and that the laws are applied equally to everybody who appears in our courthouse.

COLLINS: And that rare appearance from Judge Walton has sent shock waves far beyond Washington. You've gotten reaction from former federal judges, including a former federal appeals court judge, Judge Michael Luttig, and others, who've been taking what he had to say seriously.

His warning that Trump's actions and his attacks on people like Judge Merchan's daughter, that they can lead to tyranny, is through his point of view as a judge, someone who's been on the bench for decades, not as any member of a party or supporting a campaign.

And that's why he's been resonating so much.


BRUNHUBER: It's said that politics makes strange bedfellows. And here's a case in point. The Biden campaign is making a bid for supporters of former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

Team Biden said Friday that it's releasing a forceful new ad aimed directly at GOP voters who supported Haley in the primary. Let's have a look.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Nikki Haley has made an unholy alliance with RINOs, Never Trumpers, Americans for no prosperity. She's sitting there like. She's gone crazy. She's a very angry person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you bring these Nikki Haley voters back into the team? TRUMP: I'm not sure we need too many.


BRUNHUBER: The campaign says the seven-figure ad buy will run on digital platforms in battleground states and use Republican primary data to target mostly suburban areas, where Haley performed well against Donald Trump.

All right. After the break, we'll have the latest from Baltimore, where huge cranes are being positioned to untangle that collapsed bridge from the cargo ship that crashed into it.

Plus they don't need any more rain in southern California buts a big storm system is moving in. (INAUDIBLE) has other ideas.





BRUNHUBER: In Maryland, the six Latino men who died in the Baltimore bridge collapse are being remembered. At a news conference on Friday, the Casa Organization honored the construction workers who died while working on the bridge before it was struck by a container ship.

All six were immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala. The organization, which supports working class minorities, said it set up a donation fund to help their families.

Now have a look at these live pictures from the scene, where a monumental cleanup operation is taking shape. Huge cranes, including the largest one on the East Coast, the Chesapeake 1000, are being deployed to reopen the shipping channel because the bridge weighs too much for any one crane to lift.

Massive pieces of debris will be cut into smaller sections before they can be moved. And on Friday, President Biden told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland that he will visit Baltimore next week.

The federal government has already said it's giving the state $60 million as a down payment for a cleanup work and rebuilding. But some Republicans are concerned about Washington's role in footing the bill, like congressman Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania.


REP. DAN MEUSER (R-PA): It was kind of outrageous immediately for Biden to express in this tragedy the idea that he's going to use federal funds to pay for the entirety.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Danny Freeman has more.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The massive task of untangling the Francis Scott Key Bridge from the Dali container ship is set to begin. The largest crane on the East Coast has arrived.


Ready and waiting, just off the site of the wreckage.

The hope is this crane can help move thousands of tons of debris. So recovery efforts can continue and ships can eventually move through again.

GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): But go out there and to see it up close, you realize just how daunting a task this is. You realize how difficult the work is ahead of us.

FREEMAN: The NTSB released this video providing an inside look at the wreckage from onboard the ship.

IAN RALBY, MARITIME LAW AND SECURITY EXPERT: It's kind of scary because we're on the ship and yet the bridges both below it and on top of it. So you can see this is, this is quite a mess.

FREEMAN: We asked maritime law and security expert and Baltimore native Ian Ralby to walk us through the NTSB video and explain the challenge ahead.

You see objects that are just strewn about like barrels and I guess trying to put together where did this even come from is part of the issue?

RALBY: Yes, what's the origin?

Is it from the ship or was it -- was it on the bridge and we know that there was construction work happening. What kind of materials were on the bridge versus but what came out of a container on the ship and that's going to be part of many different puzzles that are going to be a focus of NTSB and others on the ship right now.

FREEMAN: When you see some of these images of like you said, the bridge tangled with the ship. Do you worry that this ship might capsize or sink?

RALBY: Well, absolutely, the question is, as the salvage operation occurs, how is we're going to be redistributed?

And what is going to happen?

FREEMAN: Governor Wes Moore says, by Monday, a total of four heavy lift cranes will be on site along with more than 30 vessels in the coming weeks to aid in the cleanup -- Danny Freeman, CNN, just outside Baltimore.


In the U.S., a flood watch is in effect for parts of central and southern California as a powerful storm is expected to bring heavy rain, strong gusty winds and snow to the West and then severe weather to the east.


BRUNHUBER: "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich has been detained in Russia for an entire year now. Still ahead, his sister speaks to CNN about the family's hopes that he'll come back home soon.

Plus Ukraine's president calls on U.S. lawmakers again to approve the next batch of military aid. But this time he's spelling out what will happen on the front lines if they don't.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, it's been a full year and counting but the family of "The Wall Street Journal" reporter, Evan Gershkovich, is still hoping to see him back home. On Friday he marked a grim anniversary since he was detained in Russia for alleged espionage.

He is the first reporter since the Cold War to face those charges, which he and the newspaper strongly deny. As President Joe Biden says, the White House will keep working to get him released. The journalist's sister says the family is counting on it.


DANIELLE GERSHKOVICH, EVAN'S SISTER: Unfortunately, the case is opaque and we just have to continue to trust that the White House is taking this very seriously and there's a team of experts working on this.

So we just have to continue to put our faith in President Biden's promise to our family. We just have to keep moving forward.


BRUNHUBER: Russia is yet to show any evidence to support the charges against Gershkovich. He's locked up in a notorious Moscow prison, waiting for his trial. But as Matthew Chance reports, Russia wants to keep him in pretrial detention for at least three more months.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was our latest brief glimpse of Evan Gershkovich appearing in a Moscow court this week.

In the past, we've been kicked out of the courtroom.

CHANCE: You can see Evan Gershkovich is in there. Hi, Matthew, from CNN. Are you holding up alright?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

CHANCE: OK, what do you want us to do?

CHANCE (voice-over): This time, journalists weren't even allowed in. There's the detention of the Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges was extended for another three months. Outside the U.S. ambassador marked a bleak anniversary.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: This verdict to further prolong Evan's detention feels particularly painful as this week marks the one year anniversary since Evan was arrested and wrongfully detained in Yekaterinburg for simply doing his job as a journalist.

The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue. They are not a different interpretation of circumstances. They are fiction.

CHANCE (voice-over): But incarceration behind the walls of Lefortovo prison in Moscow is a grim fact.

U.S. officials say they're negotiating with Moscow for his release. Even the Kremlin confirmed this week contacts on a prisoner swap are continuing.

To the Russian president, the 32-year-old American newspaper reporter, is a tradable asset.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): We're willing to solve (ph) it. But there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached.

CHANCE (voice-over): And this is who Putin has hinted he wants in return.


Vadim Krasikov, a Russian operative, jailed in Germany for killing a Chechen dissident in a public park. So far, the Germans have been reluctant to set him free.

But the Kremlin knows painful agreements have been reached in the past. In 2022, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, convicted of possessing cannabis in Russia, was swapped for Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms trafficker.

PAUL WHELAN, DETAINEE: I want to tell the world that I'm a victim of political kidnap and ransom. CHANCE (voice-over): Russia's also holding other Americans, among them former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, convicted of espionage and jailed since 2018. U.S. officials have designated Whelan and Gershkovich as unlawfully detained.

TRACY: If the Kremlin has any desire to salvage Russia's integrity and international esteem, they should do what is right and release Evan and Paul immediately.

CHANCE (voice-over): But the Kremlin may want more than just integrity and esteem in exchange for its most valuable bargaining chips -- Matthew Chance, CNN, St. Petersburg.



BRUNHUBER: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is warning Kyiv will have to give up more ground without U.S. military aid. Zelenskyy told "The Washington Post," Ukraine's goal is to keep the front lines stable so it can prepare for a new counteroffensive later this year.

But without U.S. support, he said Kyiv will be short of key weapons, including air defense, Patriot missiles and artillery rounds. He said it could result in a step-by-step retreat by Ukrainian troops.

About $60 billion in aid has been held up by Republicans in the House of Representatives. House Speaker Mike Johnson has now committed to bring a bill up for a vote after the Easter break.

All right. Still to come, the latest on Pope Francis' health and how it may affect Easter weekend services at the Vatican.

Plus are you bored of the same old Easter eggs? One conservation group is shaking things up this year, inviting you to adopt an egg instead. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: In the coming hours, Pope Francis will lead the Easter vigil at St. Peter's Basilica, according to the Vatican the pontiff didn't attend the Stations of the Cross service on Good Friday because of health concerns. CNN's Vatican correspondent Christopher Lamb has details


CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: The Vatican said Pope Francis decided not to attend a Good Friday service in order to preserve his health. Francis had been due to attend the Stations of the Cross service in Rome's Colosseum but instead decided to follow it from home.

The 87 year-old pontiff has been leading the Holy Week liturgies in the run-up to Easter. On Good Friday, he presided at the main service in St. Peter's Basilica. And on Thursday, went to a prison in Rome to wash the feet of 12 female prisoners.

The pope has been battling with various bouts of Ill health in recent months and has been asking aides to read some of his addresses. But during Holy Week, he has shown a determination to try and participate as fully as possible in all of the services.

The decision by Francis not to attend was taken at the last minute. But the Vatican explained the decision was made in order for Francis to celebrate the Easter vigil on Saturday night and the Easter Sunday mass in St. Peter's Square.

Francis will be expected to celebrate the mass on Easter Sunday and also give his customary annual Easter message, where he is expected to address various conflicts taking place across the globe -- Christopher Lamb, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, King Charles is set to make a high-profile public appearance. He'll lead members of the royal family at Easter Sunday church services. This is his most significant appearance since his cancer diagnosis last month.

On advice from his doctor, he stepped back from public duties while undergoing treatment.

Princess Catherine, who was also recently diagnosed with cancer, isn't expected to attend.

Eggs have long been a custom of the Easter holiday. They're a symbol of life and rebirth. This year, a conservation group in South Africa is urging people to consider a new kind of Easter egg, one that supports the renewal of endangered birds. CNN's Michael Holmes reports on a campaign hoping to replace Easter baskets with incubators.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dipped, dyed, chocolate and, at times, exquisitely painted, eggs are a big part of celebrating Easter in many parts of the world. And one conservation group is hoping to add a new tradition to the holiday.

NICKY SHADBOLT, SANCCOB VOLUNTEER: When everybody is also thinking about chocolate and Easters and fluffy bunnies and so forth, we would like people to be focused on (INAUDIBLE) and you can even adopt an egg (INAUDIBLE) so much more symbolic of Easter.

HOLMES (voice-over): They might not be the fuzzy yellow chicks associated with Easter but the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds says it needs help funding the care of more than 200 African penguin eggs that were rescued from two different colonies.

The group is asking people to adopt an egg to pay for the cost of incubation and raising the chicks before they return to the wild. Some experts say rearing new healthy birds is the key to the survival of the penguins that once thrived in South Africa.

RONNIS DANIELS, RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, SANCCOB: The African penguin is quite close to extinction. By 2035, according to scientists and with the endangered status, it really is important that we do everything we can to protect the species.

HOLMES (voice-over): Ronnis Daniels says the African penguin population has less than 10,000 breeding pairs left. That's down from a total population of 1 million African penguins about a century ago.

One of their biggest threats is commercial fishing, which has depleted foods sources like sardines and anchovies that penguins eat. The organizations says it takes four months to raise a healthy chick from an egg. And any help this Easter, in the spirit of the holiday, could hopefully breathe new life into a struggling species -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: All right. Time for a fast break, then it's March Madness galore. We'll see who got upset in the sweet Sweet 16 and who's still playing for the trip to the Final Four. Stay with us





BRUNHUBER: It wouldn't be college basketball's March Madness without a stunning upset or two. In the men's Sweet 16, Friday, number one, Houston fell to number four, Duke 54-51.

After Houston's star guard suffered an injury. Meanwhile both Purdue and Tennessee have secured their Elite Eight spots. And number 11, North Carolina State, advances by knocking out number two Marquette.

That sends the Wolf Pack men to their first Elite Eight since 1986 while the women's team will advance after their win over Stanford.

For more on this, I'm joined by CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. She's also a sports columnist for "USA Today."

So Christine, after last night, South Carolina still the team to beat?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Yes, I think so. Certainly on the women's side, which is the one that's getting even more attention probably than the men this year because of Iowa and Caitlin Clark. South Carolina played a really strong Indiana team on Friday night. And South Carolina led by Dawn Staley, long time Olympian, terrific

coach, obviously the undefeated, number one right team in the country, they had a 22 point lead at one point in the game and it dwindled down to two and they ended up only beating Indiana by four points. So they -- South Carolina had a bit of a scare.


Yet they are, of course, moving on and they're one of the four number one seeds. All four of them that are still in the women's tournament, even though only half of the field has played. The women are about a day behind the men.

So meanwhile, on the men's side, you've had two number one seats losing, North Carolina yesterday and then Houston recently, just a few hours ago, lost too to Duke. So there seems to be mostly stability on the women's side, although a couple of big games coming up. We'll see what happens on Saturday.

So South Carolina is looking good, even though they did have a scare.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We were talking about men's and women's. Let's unite the two stories here, a fun story. The whole of the NC State campus must be in party mode, maybe even still now at this hour because they won. And I mean, they -- both teams, men and women, two upsets.

BRENNAN: Exactly.

Well and they were playing at the same time, which is really kind of great when you think about that. There, I can only imagine what was going on on campus. The officials, the athletic directors, I wouldn't look at their phones. It's very rare that they'd be playing at the exact same time as the men's and women's tournament.

And yes, the men went on and beat Marquette, big upset. And North Carolina State's men's team won the ACC tournament, kept beating teams that they -- everyone thought they'd lose to. They've won eight games in a row now in the postseason, counting the ACC tournament.

And in the North Carolina State, women upset Stanford and that's a bit of a surprise because Stanford, it was the number two seed. So a great couple of hours in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kim, for the Wolf Pack fans, both men's and women's.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Well, you teased it when you mentioned her name a few minutes ago. Of course, the most anticipated game later today, Iowa and Caitlin Clark

BRENNAN: Yes, Caitlin Clark, you can't go anywhere right now without seeing her on TV. In fact, I was watching with family several of the games at the same time. And the person we saw more than anyone else was Caitlin Clark because she's on all the commercials.

And what a wonderful statement that is for women's sports, because that wasn't happening 10 years ago. My goodness, it wasn't happening even five years ago. And Iowa is the number one seed. They've got a tough match up against Colorado, a big strong team.

Could be, could be a challenge for Iowa. I always got to -- Caitlin Clark, has been, of course, we would presume play well. The supporting cast, her teammates have to step up from what they did the other day. And right before that game, so Caitlin Clark obviously, the big name, the star of the basketball season, men's or women's this year.

But right before that game, LSU, the defending national champion, will be playing against UCLA. So you've got these two blockbuster games back-to-back, LSU against UCLA. And as soon as that ends in Iowa and Colorado.

And if in fact Iowa and LSU were to win those two games, then they would play each other Monday night. So it would be a rematch of the national championship last year. But it wouldn't even make it to the Final Four. It would only be in the Elite Eight if, in fact, Iowa and LSU win, one of them will be knocked out before the Final Four.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We shall see. So I want to end with this since you're here. I want to take advantage of your Olympic expertise, fast- forwarding to Paris and the Summer Olympics, a lot of talk around Caitlin Clark.

Do you think she'll make the team are one of the teams because she might have options, right?

BRENNAN: She does. Yes. You're right. There's the 5 and 5, the traditional basketball, the U.S. women's national team and the Olympics has not lost since 1992. That's a tough team to make. That's a tough roster to crack. Great, great stars.

But Caitlin Clark has been invited to the training camp, which is the same weekend as the women's Final Four. So Iowa's playing, she won't be at the training camp. If Iowa were to lose the next two games, one of the next two games, then Caitlin Clark would be at that training camp for the Olympic team, the only collegiate player to be invited.

There's another option. There's the fun 3-on-3 tournament, started in Tokyo. U.S. won the first gold in Tokyo at the Olympics in 2021. Caitlin Clark would be a natural for that. And that's going to be picturesque, with the Eiffel Tower in the background, Place de la Concorde. That's where that that fun tournament will be, the 3-on-3 basketball.

So yes, there are a couple of options to see more of Caitlin Clark because, as we know, we can't see enough of her right now. And I think the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and USA Basketball would like to see Caitlin Clark representing U.S. in Paris. We'll see how it all plays out.

BRUNHUBER: Looking forward to talking Olympics with you in the month ahead. In the meantime, looking forward to the action today, Christine Brennan. Thank you so much, really appreciate it.


BRENNAN: Kim, my pleasure. Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: They say, you can't win if you don't play but, after 37 consecutive drawings, the Powerball grand prize is still up for grabs. The jackpot for today's draw has now skyrocketed to $935 million before taxes. And this makes it the fifth largest prize in the game's history.

But your odds of winning the grand prize is 1:292 million. We'll, I'll put that into perspective for you. You're 244 times more likely to be struck by lightning in any given year.

The actor Louis Gossett Jr. has died, according to his family, leaving a legacy of stage, TV and film roles that earned him widespread acclaim.


BRUNHUBER: It was his role as the tough-talking but supportive drill sergeant in "An Officer and A Gentleman" that may have been his pinnacle. It won him the first Oscar ever presented to a Black man for Best Supporting Actor.

He was also nominated for eight Emmys, winning for his role in the breakthrough TV series about slavery, "Roots." During his life, Louis Gossett Jr. was a victim of racism but created a foundation to fight it. He was 87 years old.

All right, that wraps this. Our own CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For viewers in North America, "CNN THIS MORNING" is next. For the rest of the world, it's "AFRICAN VOICES: CHANGEMAKERS"