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Johnson & Johnson Loses Huge Opioid Suit; Tropical Storm Dorian Gaining Strength; Bizarre Sequence Leaves Two Kids Dead; Taylor Swift's Messages to White House; Brazil to Reject $20 Million Aid Offer from G7; Turkey's President Meeting with Putin. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:58] MIKE HUNTER, OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Johnson & Johnson, motivated by greed and avarice, is responsible for the opioid epidemic in our state.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A groundbreaking decision on the public scourge of opioids. It could cost the pharmaceutical industry billions.

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

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




BRIGGS: And Taylor Swift wins big at the VMAs. But her message had nothing to do with music. Taylor getting political.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

BRIGGS: Good to see you, my friend.

ROMANS: Summer, August, Tuesday. I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour here in New York.

A game-changing court ruling in the opioid crisis. This epidemic that has killed more than 400,000 people over the last 20 years and now 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.


BRIGGS: It's a first time the court has held a pharmaceutical company accountable for the opioid crisis, and an ominous sign for opioid makers and distributors targeted in an enormous national lawsuit that's set to start trial 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.


BRIGGS: 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.

[04:35:06] 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.


ROMANS: All right. The judge did not give the state of Oklahoma everything it wanted. That request was for $17.5 billion over 30 years. Why so much? Pay for treatment, medical education, overdose prevention and law enforcement.

But the judge awarded only $572 million for the first year, ruling the state did not provide sufficient evidence that more money was needed.

Johnson & Johnson stock was up as much as 5 percent. Why did the stock rise with such a big judgment? Well, the company was ordered to pay for less than investors had expected.

BRIGGS: A major street looming in the Caribbean from Tropical Storm Dorian. The National Hurricane Center issuing a tropical storm watch for Puerto Rico. The island's governor has issued a state of emergency.

Dorian is strengthening, moving through the Windward Islands right now, and it could become a hurricane as it nears Puerto Rico, churning toward the U.S. this 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, a very compact storm that is going to be impacting portions of St. Lucia, Martinique, and eventually, of course, on approach towards areas around Puerto Rico and potentially, the island of Hispaniola.

And because it's such a compact system, any sort of interaction, whether it be with a small island or a larger one in its path, really plays a role to what is left of this storm and what its eventual impact could be farther down the line.

So at this point, we do have tropical storm watches in place from Puerto Rico towards the U.S. Virgin Island, St. Kitts, and also Nevis. And farther towards the south, we do have tropical storm warnings in place with winds there approaching 45 to 65 miles per hour but, of course, stronger gusts over the next couple of days.

And a brief window in place here over the next 36 hours for this to potentially get up to a category one. Beyond that, of course, larger islands in its path that could disrupt the flow of the storm system. There's also additional wind shear, but a little bit of dry air to deal with as well.

So, a lot of rain going to be the story at this point and we're going to watch this as we approach this weekend -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you so much for that.

Breaking moments ago. Brazil plans to rejects $20 million in aid offered by G7 leaders to help fight raging wildfires in the Amazon. The chief of staff to Brazilian president tells a Brazilian newspaper they're 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 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, he has plenty to deal with back in France.

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

Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground for us in Brazil.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Jair Bolsonaro seemed to take a break from engaging in what seemed to be a spat on social media with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. He'd commented on an offensive meme about the French president's wife, which caused the French president to talk about how he hoped Brazil eventually would have a president that lives 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 for the French president to really tell him what to do. And they engaged in a very lengthy tirade against the media here.

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

But does Brazil, itself, have the will -- does it 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 the cargo planes in the sky that seem to be on their way to tackle things.

But, Brazil thinks it can deal with it by itself. It's allowed Israeli help in, possibly soon, but it's unclear if it will allow the international community's outrage to influence who it allows in to assist with this massive firefighting operation here.

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


ROMANS: All right. Thank you for that, Nick.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg making her first public appearance just days after completing weeks of radiation treatment for her latest bout with cancer.

[07:40:06] The 86-year-old receiving an honorary law degree from the University of Buffalo on Monday. She was invited there last year by longtime friend Wayne Wisbaum, who died in December.


RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I promised him I would come, I didn't know that this day would be preceded by three weeks of daily radiation. But I said I will not cancel Buffalo.



ROMANS: Ginsburg also talked about advice she received from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she underwent cancer treatment in 1999. She told Ginsburg, schedule the chemotherapy for Friday. That way you get over it on the weekend.

Ginsburg added proposals to add Supreme Court justices are, quote, a very bad idea.

BRIGGS: She is fierce.

Capital One and Deutsche Bank have until 4:00 this afternoon to reveal whether they have President Trump's tax returns. On Friday, attorneys for both banks refused to tell an appellate court whether they have the returns, citing contractual and statutory obligations.

The court issued on Monday calls for a yes or no answer by 4:00 p.m. or a more detailed explanation why they cannot give one.

President Trump is appealing a lower court decision not to block congressional subpoenas seeking access to his financial records.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, two children killed in Dayton, Ohio, in a bizarre incident involving a stolen police cruiser. Officers are responding to a stabbing call last night shortly after 7:00 p.m. Now the suspect had fled and police say moments later the suspect crashed into a tree. He then stole a responding officer's cruiser and fled again crashing into several 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

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 the mass shooting in Dayton killed nine people.

ROMANS: All right. Forty-two minutes past the hour.

Two female American role models now in Barbie form.


[04:46:36] ROMANS: All right. Turkey's president is in Russia this morning. The war of Syria topping the agenda with 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. And that's where we find CNN's Fred Pleitgen live from the airfield in Moscow

Hi there, Fred.


Yes, the Turkish president actually just touched down literally a few seconds ago here at the show, outside of Moscow. You're absolutely right. This meeting has huge implications for the U.S. as well.

You have the whole complex about Syria where Russia and Turkey are by far the most powerful two foreign countries that are at work there in Syria. The U.S., of course, also has a foothold there as well.

And, you're absolutely, the Russians have been pushing an offensive. And the Turks said that that offensive is bad for their national security. So, there has been a bit ever tension between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. But on the whole, Turkey and Russia are two countries that are certainly moving closer together and that is a huge concern for the U.S. as well.

Of course, Turkey is a very important NATO ally, but one of the things that the Turks have now done is they've purchased sophisticated surface-to-air missiles systems from Russia. That's a big concern for the U.S. because the U.S. says that if the Turks have the surface to air missile system, it could be a big danger to new age American stealth jets. And that's one of the reasons why the U.S. has told the Turks that the Turks are not going to be able to purchase the F-35 stealth fighter jet which right now is probably the most sophisticated aircraft in the world.

What's Russia's answer? And that's one of the reasons why we're here at this air show. The Russians are now telling the Turks, well, listen, you can buy airplanes from us as well.

One of the things that Vladimir Putin is going to be doing, in fact to stand very close to where I am right now, is showing Erdogan some new jets that the Russians are going to be offering to purchase for the Turks. So, we're going to wait and see whether or not that's going to happen.

The Trump administration, President Trump himself, as in so many other cases, blaming the fact that relations between the U.S. and Turkey are so bad on the Obama administration, saying it's all President Obama's fault and all of this during his administration, the same reason, of course, that President Trump has been saying that Russia got kicked out of the G7.

Yesterday that press conference of the G7 Summit, President Trump went on about the fact that he felt that Vladimir Putin had outsmarted Barack Obama, President Obama, and therefore, President Obama wanted Putin out of the G8 and now, President Trump wants him back in.

It was quite interesting to see, I was monitoring Russian media yesterday and they were saying, they haven't even said they want to get back into this group. They say it's all the initiative coming from the American side. They're going to wait for the U.S. and other countries to come to them first, Christine.

ROMANS: And, Fred, there was so much to fact check at that G7, it was mind-boggling how much there was to fact check. But fact checker, it wasn't just President Obama who wanted Russia out of G8. It was a unanimous choice, am I right?

PLEITGEN: Yes, you're absolutely right. I mean, back then, this happened right after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. And back then, the U.S. obviously was pushing for a tougher line against Russia. But the other G7, back then G8, countries were of the same opinion.

Look at, for instance, the European countries, specifically the Germans, of course, the French and the Brits as well. They all said that they were going to expel Russia from that G8 which then got it down to a G7.

It was quite interesting to see now at the G7 summit. It was President Trump to a certain extent also, the French are sort of pushing to maybe let the Russians come back in.

[04:50:06] But you have countries like Germany, like Britain, who are very, very skeptical to this day of such a move, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen at the air show for us in Moscow, nice to see you. Thank you.

A huge mass of volcanic rock the size of Manhattan floating toward Australia, may rescue the great barrier reef from environmental devastation. The pumice stone was captured days after an underwater volcano erupted near the island chain of Tonga. It blocked the path of a catamaran sailing nearby.

Look at that.

Scientists say by the time the volcanic raft reaches Australia, it will be covered in sea organism. They say could bring healthier new coral to the Great Barrier Reef which has been ravaged by global warming.

All right. The Beyond Meat craze is taking on fried chicken. CNN Business has where you can find it next.


[04:55:23] BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, a line of severe storms moving across Central Oklahoma, knocking out power to more than 70,000 customers. Damage reported in parts of Oklahoma City's metro area with strong winds bringing down trees and power lines. Also reports some structures and homes have been damaged and streets flooded by the heavy rain. Officials have also responded to several house fires during the storm.

ROMANS: All right. If you're eager to find out who won big at last night's MTV's VMAs? You need to calm down.




ROMANS: Taylor Swift winning her second Video of the Year "Moon Man" for her equality 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.


ROMANS: All right. 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 opposed it, arguing it was, quote, filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.

BRIGGS: Two famous female role models, Rosa Parks and Sally Ride, honored with their own Barbie dolls. Mattel on Monday revealing the additions to its Barbie inspiring women series. The announcement comes on Women's Equality Day.

Rosa Parks is known as the mother of the modern civil rights movement. Sally Ride was the first female American astronaut and the youngest to fly in space. Each doll comes with education material about their contributions to society, along with authentic clothing and unique accessories.

ROMANS: All right. (INAUDIBLE) get Ken.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Taking a look around the world.

Asian stock markets stabilized. European markets have opened lower here. You know, August has been unpredictable, wildly swinging on the state of play of the trade war with China and recession fears because of it.

Monday's markets rebounded on trade optimism but, look, caution ahead. The trade signals have been muddled and contradictory. The Dow closed up some 270 points, recovering about 1/3 of Friday's huge losses. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq up about 1 percent.

Look, stocks have been yanked up and down on each trade and recession headline. There's no reason to think that's going to go away. The S&P 500 up 14 percent this year but it's 5 percent off of its high.

All right. Lyft shares got a lift. It stocks closed up 4.3 percent Monday after Guggenheim analysts said it should turn a profit by the year 2021 instead of 2023, following its latest price increase. It eased some of the investor fears that they've had about Lyft since its public debut back in March.

Now, Lyft CEO said it raised prices back in June but didn't say where and how much. Now, Guggenheim analysts don't expect demand to suffer from those increases.

There's no stopping the fake meat craze. Beyond Meat's latest creation Beyond Fried Chicken. It's making its way to one KFC in Atlanta this week. The first fast food restaurant to test plant-based chicken. Two choices, nuggets or boneless wings.

KFC says it may not be chicken but it is still finger licking good.

BRIGGS: Listen, I have yet to try any of this stuff.

ROMANS: I would love to do a taste test?

BRIGGS: Can we get on it?

ROMANS: Let's see if we can.


Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your Tuesday. For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.



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


ROMANS: Prescription drugs devastated communities, this groundbreaking decision on opioids could cost the pharmaceutical industry billions.

BRIGGS: State of emergency as Tropical Storm Dorian churns toward Puerto Rico. What lies in store later this week?

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




BRIGGS: And Taylor Swift wins big at the VMAs but her biggest message had nothing to do with music. Boy, another ear worm from us to you.