Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Thousands Protest in Jerusalem, Call on Netanyahu to Resign; Pope Francis Calls for Gaza Ceasefire in Easter Message; Erdogan Opponent Claims Victory in Istanbul Mayoral Race; Ukraine Targeting Russian Oil Refineries; U.S. Coast Guard: First Pieces of Baltimore Bridge Removed; Tensions Growing Between Argentina and Venezuela; King Charles Attends Easter Service in First Appearance Since Diagnosis; Californians Hoping for Superbloom of Wildflowers. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.


Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not be swayed from moving Israel's military into Rafah. As officials say, high-level talks between the U.S. and Israel over the operation could take place today.

A blow to President Erdogan's dominance in Turkey as the opposition sweeps some local elections.

And in the U.K., King Charles meets with the public for the first time since his cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: And we begin in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says pressure from the U.S. will not stop his forces from going ahead with a planned military ground offensive in Rafah.

Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, he said any delays so far has nothing to do with Washington's opposition to the plan, nor the holy month of Ramadan, adding that such an operation takes time to plan. He also again claimed the operation was necessary to defeat Hamas.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will go into Rafah and eliminate Hamas battalions there for one simple reason: there is no victory without entering Rafah, and there is no victory without eliminating Hamas battalions there.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: U.S. officials telling CNN high-level talks between the U.S. and Israeli officials over Rafah could take place as soon as Monday. Those talks, originally scheduled for last week, were abruptly called off by Netanyahu after Washington refused to block a U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages.

All of this has Netanyahu is recovering from surgery for a hernia. The hospital says he is in, quote, "excellent health, awake and talking to his family."

Meanwhile, Egyptian state media reporting negotiations over a ceasefire and hostage deal between Israel and Hamas resumed in Cairo on Sunday. Talks had reached a stalemate in recent days, according to a source.

And the family of an Israeli female hostage being held in Gaza says, quote, "No good news came out of their meeting with Netanyahu," and they left that meeting, quote, "disturbed."

Netanyahu and his wife met with the families of abducted female soldiers on Sunday.

All of this as mass anti-government protests rocked Jerusalem for a second straight day. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday, demanding the release of all the remaining Israeli hostages and calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and hold early elections.

CNN's Melissa Bell with more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For the first time since the war began, the protest movement has returned to the streets of Jerusalem, peaked (ph) with many thousands --

BELL (voice-over): -- coming out to protest the way the government has handled the war so far.

Urgent calls for the remaining more than 130 hostages to be brought home, but also anger at Benjamin Netanyahu and his government and calls for elections to be held.

Now, tents have been set up just down there by the Knesset. The protesters intend to keep their pressure up over the coming days. We heard from the Israeli prime minister himself just ahead of the protest, saying that he believed it was his policies that were responsible for bringing half the hostages home so far and doubling down on the idea that he believed that a ground offensive in Rafah was necessary in order to flush out the remaining Hamas battalions.

But that, tonight, is not what we've heard from these protesters. A good deal of anger, a great call now that his time in office should end --

BELL: -- the changes should be made, and that this war should be brought to an end.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOLMES: Christians around the world observed the Easter holiday on Sunday, but not every House of worship was able to celebrate as much as they would like.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre held mass for congregations in Jerusalem, the site, of course, believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified. And his tomb is nearby.

Although more somber services were held in Gaza, people offering prayers for peace instead of holding their usual celebrations. One woman said it was a, quote, "very different holiday from before," reduced to prayers and rituals.

A church director said not even Houses of worship are safe from the effects of Israel's war with Hamas.



MUSSA AYAD, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, HOLY FAMILY CHURCH (voice-over): The condition of the Christians is the same as that of other Palestinian people simply have been lost. Some people have died. Some patients need medications. There's a need for food. Of course, there's a need for security, because there is war. There's a military operation, strikes, shrapnel. All of these things have affected us. Some areas inside the churches have been hit, making to large number of wounded people. There's pain.


HOLMES: Pope Francis recognized that pain and once again called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during his address on Easter Sunday. CNN's Christopher Lamb with details on the pope's own health struggles and his plans around the holiday.


CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Following concerns about his health, Pope Francis presided at Easter Sunday mass, and given his Easter Sunday message from St. Peter's in the Vatican.

Francis has been battling bouts of ill health recently, and on Good Friday, pulled out of a service in order to what the Vatican said was to preserve his health.

On the Easter Sunday message, Pope Francis addressed various conflicts going on in the world and reiterated his call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Here's what he had to say. POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): I

appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on the 7th of October and for an immediate ceasefire in the Strip.

LAMB: During Holy Week and in the run-up to Easter, Pope Francis presided at five major liturgies. On Thursday, he went to a female prison in Rome and washed the feet of 12 women prisoners.

On the Saturday before Easter, he celebrated the Easter vigil, a service of more than two hours long.

LAMB (voice-over): Following the mass, on Easter Sunday he toured St. Peter's Square on his Popemobile, greeting the pilgrims who had gathered, many thousands who were there, and seemed in good spirits.

Pope Francis, 87 years old, and despite his age and his health, has insisted that he will continue --

LAMB: -- in the post of pope and is refusing to consider resignation.

Christopher Lamb, CNN.


HOLMES: The people of Turkey delivered President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his political party their biggest ever electoral blow on Sunday.

In nationwide municipal elections, voters reinforced the power of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and his opposition party as a strengthening political force.

With most of the votes counted, Imamoglu said he is leading the election by a million votes. His Republican People's Party gaining mayoral seats in 15 other cities.


EKREM IMAMOGLU, ISTANBUL MAYOR/OPPOSITION CANDIDATE (through translator): The nation itself gives the order and the instructions, not just one person. Officials receive instructions from the nation. The period of one-man rule is over as of today. It is done. The Republican democracy to go full speed ahead from now on.


HOLMES: Now, the outcome of the election marks a dramatic defeat for President Erdogan and his A.K. Party after two decades in power. The longtime leader acknowledging the losses and saying he will respect the will of the Turkish people.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): We will openheartedly analyze the results of the March 31 elections within our party and make our self-criticism boldly. Although not finalized yet, the election results show us that we are

experiencing a loss of ground in local administrations across the country. Of course, we will discuss the reasons for this decline we see on the local basis.


HOLMES: Our Scott McLean is following developments from Istanbul.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If local elections in Turkey were a referendum on the ruling government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then voters very clearly sent a message that they are not happy.

Not only has Erdogan A.K. Party failed to win back major cities in this country, but it appears that they are on track to also lose some areas that had been entered.

And perhaps the biggest blow of the night is right here in Istanbul, where people are -- have come to celebrate the win of the incumbent mayor, Ekem Imamoglu, a man who is widely considered to be one of the very few, perhaps the only opposition figure who has the popularity in the spring to take on Erdogan in a general election.

And not only has Imamoglu won reelection. But it appears that he's won it with a very comfortable margin. His party has even taken a district in Istanbul where Erdogan himself was born and raised.


And Erdogan personally injected himself into this race. His face is on banners and billboards. He's been here for rallies, as well. But also hanging over the country at the time is the dire situation of the economy, where inflation is out of control, interest rates at 50 percent. And people are really feeling it in their wallets.

Now, President Erdogan is constitutionally barred from running for another term in office. But there are some loopholes which could allow him to run one more time. And if he does, you will now surely have a very formidable opponent in the re-elected mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu.

Scott McLean, CNN, Istanbul.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, Kurds living in the Southeastern city of Diyarbakir took to the streets in celebration after Sunday's election. Members of the People's Equality and Democracy Party were able to reclaim local government seats across the region. And, quote, "reclaiming our will," according to one voter.

Here's what another local resident had to say about the election results. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are extremely happy. With our freewill, we won again. We sent the government-appointed trustees back to the capital. No one can stop our freewill. We own it.


HOLMES: Coming up here on the program, Moscow aiming for an ambitious number of new military conscripts.

Also a long road to recovery in Baltimore Harbor. But there are already signs progress is being made.

We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Russia is calling up 150,000 civilians for military service, the country's largest conscription goal since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

All Russian men are required to serve in the military for a year from the age of 18, and twice a year, Russia calls up new conscripts for service.

In July 2023, Russian lawmakers voted to raise the maximum conscription age from 27 to 30.

Military officials say conscripts will not be involved in the so- called special military operation in Ukraine, as Russia refers to it. It is a war, of course.

Some $60 billion in U.S. aid for Ukraine has been stalled in Congress for weeks, thanks to deep dysfunction within the Republican Party in this country. But one moderate Republican lawmaker says that soon might be over. Representative Mike Lawler telling CNN on Sunday he is optimistic the issue will come up for a vote in the days ahead.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): I believe there will be a vote when we get back from the Easter recess. certainly, this is critically important for our allies.

We are the leader of the free world, and we cannot shirk on our responsibility to uphold and defend democracies across the globe.



HOLMES: But there could be still some road bumps before Ukraine gets that aid. Far-right Republican lawmakers are opposing any new money for Kyiv and are threatening to oust the House speaker if he puts the funding up for a vote. Meanwhile, France is saying it will send hundreds of secondhand armored vehicles to Ukraine. In an interview with the French media, the country's minister of armed forces says the vehicles will be old but still functioning.

He says that France is also preparing to send surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine, which will provide critical defense against Russian airstrikes.

And as Ukraine waits for help from its allies, it has been attacking oil refineries inside Russia, striking at the heart of Russian industry. And Ukrainian forces are using artificial intelligence to guide their attacks.

CNN's Clare Sebastian with those details.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flying straight for Russia's biggest moneymaker. This precise hit, one of more than a dozen Ukrainian drone strikes reported on Russian oil refineries since the start of the year.

VASYL MALYUK, HEAD OF SECURITY SERVICES OF UKRAINE (through translator): We have already reduced both production and processing by 12 percent. So we continue to work while the gas station country continues to burn.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Attacks like this, which CNN has geo-located to the high-capacity Ryazan oil refinery, many experts say do more harm than sanctions to Russian energy.

HELIMA CROFT, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS: From the beginning of the war, we've made -- the U.S. made the decision to try to keep Russian oil on the market, because no one would support Ukraine in a winter of discontent.

SEBASTIAN: And now the weapons have stopped coming.

CROFT: Right. That is the question. Has the bargain broken down? Because aid for Ukraine is being held up in the United States Congress.

And then does this mean that Ukraine has a limited window to try to change dynamics on the ground?

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Russia has admitted oil refining output is down, and it's temporarily banned gasoline exports to preserve supplies.

Meanwhile, global oil prices have risen around 12 percent since the start of the year. A U.S. official telling CNN these attacks are now being discouraged. CROFT: If this wasn't an election year, there might be more

willingness to endure this. Like, that's why Washington is calling Ukraine right now.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Two years ago, Ukraine would not have had the technology to do this. Some of the refineries hit are over 1,000 kilometers from its territory, a big leap in terms of range.

This puts around three-quarters of Russian refinery output in Ukraine's reach according to RBC Capital Markets.

As to their ability to avoid this fate -- being downed by Russian jammers -- a source close to Ukraine's drone program telling CNN artificial intelligence is now in use in some of the refinery attacks.

NOAH SYLVIA, RESEARCH ANALYST, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: They have this -- this type of thing called machine vision, which is a form of ai to our understanding. All you have to do is you take a model and you have it on a chip, and you train this model over time to be able to identify images, geography, and the target.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): It also allows for a high degree of precision. Look at this strike, geolocated again to the Ryazan oil refinery.

A second hit on one specific tower.

SYLVIA: From what we've seen, some of it is they're striking targets that -- that need a lot of Western technology. And Russia has a much more difficult time procuring this technology.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): And yet experts say Ukraine is still exercising some restraint. These blue dots are Russia's key Western oil export terminals. Around two-thirds of its oil and oil product exports pass through these ports, according to RBC.

CROFT: If we simply had one major export facility hit, I think the impact on markets would be substantial.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): For Ukraine, the risk here is not just U.S. disapproval, but Russian revenge. Amid signs Ukraine's own energy sector is, once again, in its sights.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


HOLMES: There is progress to report from Baltimore Harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard saying the first pieces of the collapsed bridge have been lifted from the water nearly a week after that container ship crashed into the structure.

This is, of course, just the beginning of a long process. CNN's Gloria Pazmino gives us a closer look at the crash site and the magnitude of the task ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So you can see we have been able to get extremely up close to the wreckage of the Dali. And we're starting to really get an appreciation and a sense of just how massive this job is going to be.

You're looking at 4,000 tons of steel and concrete that are sitting on top of that bow. That is going to be the most complicated part of this operation, moving all of that debris and taking it off the ship so that they can begin this cleanup process.


And then there's everything that's laying below the surface, the part that we can't see.

There is more metal, more concrete, more debris in the water. And that's going to be critical, because they have to be able to make that safe for the divers whose mission it is to get back into the water and continue searching to attempt to recover the bodies of those who were lost.

But as we're sitting here, you know, now finally, being able to really see it and get up close to it, you really just get a sense of the enormity of the job at hand.

But all the officials here have told us that they are confident that they're going to be able to get it done. They're working together, have all of the technology necessary, and they're going step by step, taking them, it takes to make sure that they get it right and that eventually, they can reopen the port. They can start rebuilding.

And that this important symbol for the city of Baltimore, and the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland, can get cleaned up. And the people here can start getting back to normal.

Gloria Pazmino, CNN.


HOLMES: Argentina's new president has been making headlines since before his election last November. But Javier Milei's recent comments about other Latin American leaders are creating hard feelings across the region. I'll have an interview coming up with the controversial leader, and we'll examine what he says, next.


HOLMES: Relations between two of South America's most prominent governments are growing increasingly sour.

Earlier this week, Argentina accused Venezuela of cutting off electricity to the Argentine embassy in Caracas after the dramatic mission hosted a meeting with Venezuela's opposition leaders.

Tensions have been growing between the two nations since Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro criticized Argentina's far-right president, Javier Milei's election win last November.

CNN En Espanol's Andres Oppenheimer sat down earlier this week with President Milei to talk about the tense relations between the two countries.


JAVIER MILEI, ARGENTINE PRESIDENT (through translator): Well, without a doubt, the worst presidents in Latin America due to scandals, all -- all that have something to do with the dictatorship of Venezuela, with the communism that Petro wants to promote in Colombia, what Nicaragua has, or what Cuba has. That's all the worst of all. They are truly despicable.

ANDRES OPPENHEIMER, ANCHOR, CNN EN ESPANOL: Only recently, hours ago, Argentina, along with Peru, Uruguay, Costa Rica, and three or four other countries, issued a statement expressing their serious concern about these elections, or pseudo-elections, as I call them, in Venezuela. What more can Latin American countries due to promote democracy in Venezuela? Are they contemplating some kind of diplomatic sanctions or something?

MILEI (through translator): At the moment, we have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) true, they are being condemned. For example, here, the previous government would not have condemned any of those dictatorships. So, in principle, we make an emphatic condemnation.

We raised those flags in all the places. And obviously, if we would have to move forward with sanctions, I would not have any type of problem with that.

OPPENHEIMER (through translator): will you try to convince other countries to adopt diplomatic sanctions against Venezuela?

MILEI (through translator): Yes, I would be willing to do it, because the carnage that's happening in Venezuela is truly unprecedented. The same as the prison island of Cuba.

Then they all the cases that are on the way, like the case of Colombia with Mr. Petro, who well, you cannot expect a lot from someone who was a terrorist murderer, a communist.


HOLMES: I'm joined now by Benjamin Gedan, a director of the Latin American program at the Wilson Center and the former South American director on the National Security Council. So great voice to talk about all this.

As one analyst put it -- and I'll quote -- Latin America has a long tradition of these food fights between leaders on left and right. But how unprecedented other sorts of things we heard in this interview in terms of the norms of regional relations.

BENJAMIN GEDAN, DIRECTOR, LATIN AMERICAN PROGRAM, WILSON CENTER: The region has had a lot of trouble over the years, integrating or even getting along politely amongst heads of state.

But I think this is rather extreme. I mean, calling other heads of state murderers and resulting in having all your diplomats expelled from that country is not something that happens every day in the region.

HOLMES: Yes, he of course, some of those he criticized after they themselves criticized him. Mr. Lopez Obrador has in the past called Mr. Milei a fascist ultra-conservative. So I don't know. Is it a big deal, Milei responding this way? Does it cross the line?

GEDAN: It's a big deal, but certainly, the blame does not only lie in Buenos Aires. I think in this case, what we've seen is a bad habit developing a Latin America, where heads of state are getting involved in elections in other countries. They're making personal attacks against one another. And there are real geo-strategic consequences for it.

HOLMES: What will -- well, tell us about that? What are the consequences?

GEDAN: I mean, look, Latin America has a lot of problems right now. You have an unprecedented migration crisis. You have spiraling problems with organized crime. You have an economic malaise that has lasted for more than a decade.

You have public health systems that need a lot of help. And in most or all of these cases, what the region needs most is better integration, or at least some minimal amount of coordination amongst governments.

And when presidents are name-calling like this, and then with real diplomatic consequences, it makes it very difficult for the region to operate together.

HOLMES: Yes, good, good point. I mean, in the interview, also criticized other countries, ones other than Mexico and Colombia. I mean, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba. They -- they were all singled out, too.

How will that play out in terms of regional discussions and meetings and cooperation? Do people look at Milei and just say, oh, well, that's just him? Or is this just going to -- is it going to be an awkward family dinner next time?

GEDAN: Look, some of those are actually pretty good targets. I'd say the dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba, Nicaragua, they deserve criticism. And frankly, it's refreshing to have a head of state in the region call out those governments for having destroyed democracy and abused human rights.

When it comes to neighbors, however, like Brazil, for example, it's really important that Argentina finds a way to get along. This is its major trading partner.

And he has insulted Lula, the president of Brazil, as well. If he does the same to China, for example, there could be serious economic consequences.

HOLMES: Yes, speaking of economics, economic activity has fallen in Argentina. Construction activity is down. The poverty rate is up. I think it's 57 percent of the population earlier this year. That's 30 million people.


Inflation among the highest in the world. How is Milei doing in his own country, given the economic situation? Are his austerity policies working, or are they annoying the people?

GEDAN: Well, both, I'd say. I mean, he inherited an absolute nightmare in terms of the condition of Argentina's economy: over 200 percent inflation the year before he took office, empty central bank vaults. So no hard currency.

His diagnoses are correct. Argentina chronically overspends. It borrows too much. It prints money and ends with all this inflation. However, fixing it is very difficult and having the political support of Argentines through an austerity process is hardly guaranteed.

HOLMES: And how is that playing out? I mean, what, what is his level of popularity or otherwise on the Argentines street?

GEDAN: So far, surprisingly, polls show that he's reasonably popular. I think Argentines remember how badly the last government performed. Frankly, they remember how badly every government has performed in the dip -- in the democratic period in Argentina.

And so I think they're giving him a little bit of leash.

On the other hand, the consequences of his economic policies are really being felt. You had a national strike very early in the new administration. You've had lots of protests. You've had court challenges to many of his executive orders, and he has failed in Congress to move forward on this massive bill that would reform Argentina's economic structures and try to make it more sustainable and competitive.

So it's a mixed bag so far. And if things don't get better quickly, you could see some real governability challenges.

HOLMES: Yes, and you know, I guess it's usually the case that it is far easier for populists to campaign and even be elected than it is to govern. Is Javier Milei finding that out: the realities versus the campaign rhetoric and promises? Or is it too soon to tell?

GEDAN: No, he certainly is. Look, this is someone who came into office thinking he had a pretty serious mandate for change, but he came in with not a single governor of his political party. No majority in either House of Congress, and a political party that's brand-new.

Just a couple of years ago, he was just a talking head on television, screaming about his views on economic management. So now this libertarian former pundit is trying to govern without a lot of support in the political system.

Now, in a sense, he thrives on that. He campaigned against what he called the political caste. He still sees himself as this outsider, not afraid to make waves in order to fix what's broken in Argentina.

But without more support in Congress, without support in the Argentine street, without support from the unions and governors, it's going to be really hard to make a difference.

HOLMES: Fascinating, terrific analysis. Benjamin Gedan, thank you so much there at the Wilson Center.

GEDAN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

HOLMES: Sunday marked International Transgender Day of Visibility. It's an annual event to celebrate trans people while raising awareness of the issues they face. Protesters in Mexico, demand march to demand a law to protect the rights of transgender people.

At least four members of the country's transgender community were murdered in the first two weeks of 2024. That led to a nationwide outcry asking the government to better protect trans people.

Coming up here on the program, King Charles makes his first major public appearance since revealing his cancer diagnosis. What this means for the British royal family, when we come back.






HOLMES: A call to prayer to remember. In Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday the historic Umayyad Mosque issued its first call to prayer in more than a decade.

To mark the momentous occasion, a mass Iftar meal was organized at the war-damaged mosque, where more than 1,000 people gathered to break their fast during this holy month of Ramadan.

For years during the Syrian civil war, Aleppo was divided by competing factions. Although the fighting ended there in late 2016, the event is seen as a symbolic return to some sense of normalcy for the city.

In the United Kingdom, King Charles met with the public for the first time since his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. The 75-year-old monarch was all smiles as he greeted a crowd outside St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on Easter Sunday.

Charles and Queen Camilla attended Easter service with a few royal family members. The outing coming more than a week after the princess of Wales revealed her own cancer fight.

CNN's Max Foster reports.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lucky few royal well-wishes given a surprise invite into Windsor Castle to see the king making his first major public appearance since his cancer diagnosis.

Then, an even bigger surprise when he went for a walk and a chat.

KING CHARLES, UNITED KINGDOM: I hope you haven't got too cold standing here.

FOSTER (voice-over): A royal source telling CNN all future engagements remain subject to medical device near the time. But this was an encouraging sign of how the treatment is progressing, as we look towards summer and how the road ahead is looking positive.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: He's obviously looking in, you know, really great form. He's walking. He's, you know, out there again. But we've been told that this isn't a return for public duties. What it is, is a gentle return to the public eye.

So we're seeing Charles out and about, waving, you know, seeing people. But he's not going back to the full duties of kingship. And we don't yet have a timeline as to when that's going to be.

FOSTER (voice-over): The service at Windsor is a tradition for the royals, Prince Andrew amongst those invited, showing that he's part of the family, if not part of the firm anymore.

The Princess of Wales didn't attend as she receives her own treatment for cancer, but that was expected, as she also spends time with their children during the school holidays.

CATHERINE, PRINCESS OF WALES: We hope that you will understand that, as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment.

FOSTER (voice-over): It's an unprecedented time for the royal family, with two senior royals sidelined due to serious illness, leaving only a handful of working royals to carry out public duties.

Queen Camilla has shouldered much of the load in Charles's absence. Prince William is expected to resume public engagements in mid-April. But it's been a strain on the system.

ERIN HILL, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE SENIOR EDITOR, ROYALS: King Charles really wanted to have a slimmed-down monarchy when he took -- took on the throne, but he never could have anticipated slimming down to where it is now.

FOSTER (voice-over): And there's also a matter of trust. The statement by the princess of Wales diffused a frenzy of conspiracy theories about her health and whereabouts.

But there are lingering questions about a digitally altered photo of Catherine and the children, and concerns that the palace isn't being transparent enough.

Media cameras were invited to film the events, rather than in-house media teams.

Behind the scenes, the king has been carrying out meetings and continuing his work as head of state, as both he and Catherine continue their cancer treatments.

FOSTER: Royal fans often come here to Windsor for a chance to see the king. For a lucky few, they are invited into the castle, and they actually spent some time with him. And they're all saying how well he looks.

So encouraging signs for monarchists here in the U.K.

Max Foster, CNN, Windsor Castle, England.


HOLMES: Well, it's an annual sign of spring in California. Wildflowers blooming up and down the state. And this year, thanks in part to a very wet winter, spectators are hoping it's going to be even more spectacular than usual.

Here's Stephanie Elam with more.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A flurry of flowers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's amazing.

ELAM (voice-over): As spring begins to unfurl in California, flower fans are hoping for another showstopper, a phenomenon known as a superbloom.


EVAN MEYER, BOTANIST & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THEODORE PAYNE FOUNDATION: A superbloom is many, many flowers, millions, if not billions of flowers blooming simultaneously.

ELAM (voice-over): Expanses of orange, yellow, and purple flowers so densely clustered that they are visible from space, like in 2023, after one of the wettest winters on record.

The thing is, superblooms aren't a guarantee. It takes the right conditions for that riot of hues to appear. During California's devastating drought years, there's no brilliant display.

MEYER: But when those conditions come together and you get a lot of rain and cool days, you're going to see tons of flowers. And this year, I think we're on track for that.

ELAM: All of these beautiful blooms just draw people in. But this is nature, so naturally, there are threats. And here in California, that often is snakes.

ELAM (voice-over): Like 12-year-old Malin (Ph) found out.

ELAM: What is the coolest thing you've seen when you've come out here?

MALIN (ph), VIEWING SUPERBLOOM: A snake. I got the dog, and I started running.

ELAM (voice-over): In 2017, some California parks were crushed with superbloom seekers. The town of Lake Elsinore banned visitors to one canyon in 2019 after hundreds of thousands of people trudged off trails, destroying precious petals in their quest to take the perfect picture.

MEYER: These are fragile ecosystems. They're wild ecosystems, and they can be damaged pretty easily by being stepped on, sat on, driven on.

ELAM (voice-over): Yet experts say respectfully viewing a superbloom is a great way to connect with nature.

MEYER: You'll just see one of the most incredible things that happens in our natural world.

ELAM (voice-over): Stephanie Elam, CNN.


HOLMES: In U.S. college basketball's March Madness, the men's Final Four is set. The top-ranked Purdue Boilermakers defeating No. 2, Tennessee, 72 to 66 in the Elite Eight. Purdue is advancing to its first Final Four since 1980.

And North Carolina State continues its Cinderella run into the Final Four after upsetting Duke 76 to 64.

Here's how the semifinals will be played out. On Saturday, UCONN and Alabama going head-to-head and the Boilermakers facing off against the Wolfpack.

Meanwhile, the N.C. State women's basketball team has also clinched its spot in the women's Final Four along with South Carolina. The other two schools will be determined later today.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. I will be back here in about 30 minutes. Well, about 15 minutes with more news. WORLD SPORT until then.