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Major Opioid Ruling; Tropical Storm Dorian Gaining Strength; Bizarre Sequence Leaves Two Kids Dead; Taylor Swift's Messages to White House. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:19] MIKE HUNTER, OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Johnson & Johnson, motivated by greed and avarice, is responsible for the opioid epidemic in our state.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A groundbreaking decision on opioids could cost the pharmaceutical industry billions.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A state of emergency as Tropical Storm Dorian churns towards Puerto Rico. What lies in store later this week?

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, two kids are killed in Ohio, on a bizarre sequence involving two car crashes.




ROMANS: Taylor Swift wins big at the VMAs. But her biggest message had nothing to do with music. A little political at times.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It's EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: She's back.

ROMANS: I'm back. Two weeks vacation.

BRIGGS: Welcome back.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Good to see you, my friend.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs. Tuesday, August 27th, 4:00 a.m. here in New York. We start with the game-changing court ruling on the opioid crisis, the

epidemic that has killed more than 400,000 people over the last 20 years. A judge in Oklahoma holding Johnson & Johnson responsible for fueling the state's opioid epidemic. The court ruled the drugmaker must pay $572 million in damages.


HUNTER: Johnson & Johnson, motivated by greed and avarice, is responsible for the opioid epidemic in our state.


ROMANS: This is a really big move. This is the first time a court has held a drug company accountable for the opioid crisis. It's an ominous sign for these opioid makers and distributors targeted in an enormous national lawsuit that's set to start in Ohio in October.


JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL EXPERT: There are thousands of lawsuits that are still pending. There are thousands of governments that have sued. There are still lots of liability to come.

And you have to remember, this is over half a billion dollars. And Oklahoma is a fairly small state in terms of population. So, when you look at all the other states that have sued, all the other localities that have sued, you're talking about billions and billions of dollars that likely are going to be found that the pharmaceutical companies will have to pay.


ROMANS: CNN's Alexandra Field has more from the courthouse in Norman, Oklahoma.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Christine, this is indeed an historic ruling. Oklahoma is the first state to bring to try a pharmaceutical company alleging that Johnson & Johnson fueled the opioid crisis in this state through misleading marketing of its prescription drugs. The judge has decided that Johnson and Johnson must pay the state $572 billion that will go towards programs to prevent and treat opioid addiction. He affirmed the state's position that Johnson and Johnson has created a public nuisance through its misleading marketing on two drugs costing the state billions of dollars and devastating millions of lives.

One Oklahoma man who testified during the eight-week trial about the lost of his son through an opioid overdose says the ruling is about long sought accountability. This is a case that will be studied throughout the country. There are dozens of other states that would like to do what Oklahoma has now done. And this fall, there will be a federal trial involving a couple of thousand claims from various cities, counties and municipalities, all of which want to see pharmaceutical companies held responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic.

For its part, Johnson and Johnson says they plan to appeal the ruling immediately. They say that their painkillers are needed for pain management and treatment. They say they have followed all state and federal laws. They believe there are a number of grounds on which they can appeal and they insist that they have been made a scapegoat in what is a larger social problem -- Dave, Christine.


BRIGGS: Alex, thank you.

The judge did not give the state of Oklahoma everything it wanted. The request was for $17.5 billion over 30 years to pay for treatment, medical education, overdose prevention and response and law enforcement. But the judge awarded only $572 million for the first year, ruling the state did not provide sufficient evidence of the time and money needed to respond to the crisis after that.

Johnson & Johnson's stock was up as much as 5 percent since the company was ordered to pay far less than many investors expected.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, they have looked at that case inside and out and they were very worried that the company would have to pay more because the case is so strong.

All right. A major street looming in the Caribbean from Tropical Storm Dorian. The National Hurricane Center issuing a tropical storm watch for Puerto Rico.

[04:05:00] The island's governor has issued a state of emergency. Dorian is strengthening. It's moving to the Windward Islands right now, and it could become a hurricane as it nears Puerto Rico, churning toward the U.S. weekend.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest from the weather center.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Dave and Christine.

Tropical storm Dorian here, an interesting storm because it is a very compact storm system. As is the case, really any interaction it has, whether it'd be a small island as it is right now across places such as Barbados, Saint Lucia, Martinique or Dominica, or if it's a larger island like Hispaniola or Puerto Rico within the next, say, 36 hours, all of these will play a significant role into what is left of this particular storm.

We do have tropical storm watches across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and then a little father as to the south, closer to the storms location, tropical storm warnings in place. So, again, the governments across this region, taking the storm very seriously. Conditions in the next 36 hours, really the only brief area window for the storm to try to strengthen. And if it is the case here, it potentially gets up to a category one as it approaches the southern tier of Puerto Rico, potentially skirting just south of or impacting areas of the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, and then it crosses right over potentially the island of Hispaniola, a very mountainous island, depending on where it impacts the island across that region.

So when you look at the environmental conditions across this region, we're going to be dealing with a lot of obstacles. And, of course, when you look four or five days out, there are a lot of variables between where the storm could end up. At this point, it could be a rain maker as it approaches southern Florida -- guys.


BRIGGS: OK, Pedram, thank you.

Breaking moments ago, Brazil plans to reject $20 million in aid offered by G7 leaders to help fight the raging wildfires in the Amazon. The chief of staff to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tells a Brazilian newspaper they are thankful, but the money would be better served to help reforest Europe. He also took a shot at French President Emmanuel Macron saying he couldn't prevent the disastrous fires at the Notre Dame cathedral and has plenty to deal with back in France.

Bolsonaro himself also drawing the ire of Macron for much different reasons.

Nick Paton Walsh on the ground in Brazil.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dave, Christine, in a day of extraordinary geopolitical bickering, frankly, in Biarritz, the seven richest nations on the planet finding $20 million to contribute to an emergency fund. It's not really clear if Brazil will even accept it.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro seems to take a break from engaging what seemed to be in a spat on social media with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. He's commented on an offensive meme about the French president's wife, which caused the French president to talk about how he hoped Brazil eventually will have a president who's up to the job.

But President Bolsonaro, in terms of that suggestion of $20 million didn't seem that receptive. He talked about how it was down to Brazil to resist such colonial attitudes and it wasn't down to the French president to tell him what to do. And he engaged in a lengthy tirade against the media here.

There's a lot more information about how serious this problem is. Independent scientists like NASA, they've got their ax to grind with Brazil, are clear. This is bad and it's really twice as bad in terms of fires so far this year than last year.

But does Brazil itself have the will -- have the resources to start tackling the fires on the scale that we saw just two days ago? It is startling to see that and here we occasionally see cargo planes on the sky that seems to be on the way to tackle things where Brazil thinks it can deal with it by itself. It's allowed them to help it soon. But it's unclear it can allow the outrage to influence who allow them and assist with this massive firefighting operation here.

The fires are continuing to burn. International condemnation, will it persist and will the pressure persist of the G7 now that it's over? We'll have to see. The fires are not stopping -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you for that. The lungs of the world, 20 percent of the world's oxygen comes from those forests.

All right. Breaking overnight, two children killed in Dayton, Ohio, in this bizarre incident involving a stolen police cruiser. Officers were responding to a stabbing call shortly after 7 p.m. The suspect had already fled.

Moments later came a 911 call about the car crashing into the tree. The driver was the suspect from the stabbing incident. He then stole a responding officer's cruiser and fled and crashing into two occupied cars and several occupied cars outside the Dayton public library.


LT. COL. ERIC HENDERSON, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF OPERATIONS, DAYTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, DAYTON, OHIO: There were at least 11 removals from those other two vehicles to several different hospitals.


BRIGGS: Seven of those victims were children. Two later died. The suspect is in custody. Two police officers suffered minor injuries. All of this coming less than a month after a mass shooting in Dayton killed nine people.

ROMANS: All right. Insiders are cashing in their stocks as doubts about the longest bull market in American history grow.

[04:10:02] Corporate insiders have sold an average of $600 million of stock per day in this month, according to report by Trim Tabs Investment Research. August on track to be the fifth month of the year where insider selling tops $10 billion.

The only time that's what happened was 2006 and 2007. Oh, what happened then? The last bear market in stocks. Investors often look at insider buying and selling as a sign of confidence. Even the stock market is much larger than it was in 2007, but the increase in insiders selling stocks suggest concern about challenges ahead, especially as the U.S. trade war threatens the global economy and the recession worries amount. Those recession fears have sparked a burst of market volatility.

The S&P 500 is up 14 percent this year. But markets in August have fallen as this trade war escalates. Some analysts say insider selling does not always mean a lack of confidence. Executives may sell stocks to raise money to pay taxes, for example.

Still, Trim Tab's report makes it clear insiders are selling more than any other point during this bull market. I was off a couple of weeks. Every time I tuned in, it was the same incoherent state of play in trade. That's exactly what you're seeing in the stock market, this feeling of sort of incoherence about where we're going on this trade war.

BRIGGS: Incoherent. Good word to describe where we are headed.

All right. Indonesia's capital sinking. Why? And what government officials are planning to do.


[04:16:03] ROMANS: Turkey's president is in Russia this morning. The war in Syria tops the agenda for talks between Recep Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. Russian-backed Syrian forces are closing in on the last major stronghold for Turkish-backed rebels. Erdogan and Putin will also attend an air show.

That's where we find CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He is live for us this morning from the airfield in Moscow, in the hills of what was a kind of a rocky G7, now you have the Turkish president heading there where you are.

What do you expect?


Well, this meeting has huge implicates cases for the United States as well. Of course, Turkey and Russia, by far, the most important players there in Syria where the U.S., of course, has a foothold as well. We got a sense that the Russians have been pushing the Turks very uncomfortable. With that, they say that threatens their security. And that's something that, of course, these two leaders are going to be talking about today.

It is something that has tainted their relationship a little bit. However, on the whole, Russia and Turkey are moving closer together and that's a big problem for the United States. Turkey, of course, a very important ally for the U.S.

And one of those places where the Russians and Turks really are adding to their cooperation is in the realm of defense. One of things, of course, that the Turks have done is they've opted to buy a Russian surface to air missile system called the S-400. And the second batch of that missile system, as fate would have it, gets delivered to the Turks today.

Now, the U.S. has a big problem with that because they say that this sophisticated surface to air missile system could compromise American stealth fighters. And therefore the U.S. has told the Turks they're not going to sell them the F-35 stealth fighter jet. Well, as you've noted, Christine, we are here at the air show. And one of the things that Vladimir Putin is going to do today is offer Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey, to buy Russian jets instead.

You've already seen some of them on display. He's personally going to show him some of these jets and then maybe the Turks and Russians could make a deal there. That would be a massive blow to the United States.

Now, President Trump as he's done in the past is blaming the fact that there's so much tension between the U.S. and Turkey on the Obama administration, the same reason he said why Russia, for instance, was excluded from the G7. We saw that press conference yesterday by President Trump where he said, look, he wants Russia back in the G7. He believes it's all President Obama's fault that Russia had to exit the G7.

The interesting thing about that, though, is the Russians haven't said they wanted to get back into the G7. It was quite interesting. I was watching a press conference by the Russian foreign minister where he was saying, look, this entire initiative is not coming from the Russians, it's coming from the foreign powers, obviously, meaning the United States.

The Russians, for their part, are going to wait for the G7 countries and America to come to them and see whether they really want to go back in. So, certainly, what we're going to see today, big implications for the U.S. as well, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, at the air show for us, thank you so much, Fred Pleitgen.

BRIGGS: Now to a sinking city. Indonesia planning to move its capitol to the sparsely populated island of Borneo because its current capital is sinking. Forty percent of Jakarta is now below sea level for some areas, reportedly sinking as much as seven to eight inches per year, thanks to pumping too much groundwater and the climate crisis.

If parliament approves of the $33 million plan, construction on the new capital in Borneo would begin next year with the move happening in 2024. Jakarta would continue to be a commercial and financial hub with the majority of its 10 million residents staying put.

All right. Ahead, an early Christmas for fans of "Saturday Night Live." We'll tell you which "SNL" legend has been tapped to host the annual holiday show. That's next.


ROMANS: Four Florida nursing home employees are facing charges in the deaths of 12 residents who are exposed to extreme heat in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Jorge Carballo, former administrator and CEO at the Hollywood rehab center and three nurses were arrested Monday.

Elderly residents of the home suffered in the heat for days after the facility lost power and air conditioning when Irma hit.

[04:25:04] Family members expressing some relief. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy for what's going on and the work the police has done. And we finally have some arrests and this is just the beginning.

PEDRO FRANCO, PARENTS DIED AT FLORIDA NURSING HOME: Almost two years of, you know, waiting for something to happen. Justice is all we want.


ROMANS: Attorneys for the accused insist they did all they could under trying circumstances. The incident has led to new emergency requirements for the state's nursing homes.

BRIGGS: If you're eager to find out who won big last night's MTV's VMAs, you need to calm down.




BRIGGS: Taylor Swift winning her second Video of the Year "Moon Man" for her quality anthem "You Need to Calm Down." Swift was pretty fired up about why the Trump White House has not acknowledged her Equality Act petition for LGBTQ rights, which was launched with that single.


SWIFT: At the end of this video, there was a petition and there still is a petition for the Equality Act, which basically just says we all deserve equal rights under the law. It now has half a million signatures, which -- which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.


BRIGGS: Checking her watch there to wait for the response.

The White House has yet to comment directly to Swift. The House did pass the Equality Act in May. At the time, the White House proposed it arguing that it was filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.

ROMANS: All right. A legendary "SNL" cast member is coming home.


EDDIE MURPHY, COMEDIAN: There are lots of things you can sell on the streets. All you have to do is be an entrepreneur. That's our word for the day, boys and girls.


ROMANS: Eddie Murphy will return to host the Christmas episode of "Saturday Night Live" on December 21st. It will be Murphy's first appearance on the show since he left in 1984. "SNL" season 45 kicks off September 28. Woody Harrelson is host and Billie Eilish is the musical guest.

Thirty-five years.

BRIGGS: Man, that is incredible. Looking forward to that.

Ahead for the first time, drugmakers held responsible for the nationwide opioid epidemic, what could be a game changer for 2,000 other claims about to be heard.