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CNN Gets Rare Look Inside Hurricane Hunters' Plane; UAW Launches Historic Strike Against Big Three Automakers; Zelenskyy To Meet Biden Next Week. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: On our radar this hour, a same-sex couple in Kentucky was just awarded $100,000 years after they were denied a marriage license. Dave Ermold and David Moore sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in 2015. You'll likely remember this.

She refused to issue their license in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision that legalized same-sex marriage. David said -- Davis said issuing the license and others for same-sex couples violated her Christian convictions. And now, we see who has had the last word there.

In Southern California, a school district agreed to pay $27 million to the family of a student who was killed by bullies in 2019. The family's lawsuit states that two students punched 13-year-old Diego Stolz in the head. He then fell and hit his head on a concrete pillar. He never woke up and died nine days later. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that administrators were warned that Stolz was being bullied but did nothing to stop it. After the settlement was announced, the school district highlighted the anti-bullying efforts that they have since then put in place.

TV painter Bob Ross is a cultural icon, and now the art market is starting to reflect that. The going price for his very first on-air painting, A Walk in the Woods, was almost $10 million. It was painted live on air back in January of 1983. A great year, by the way. A show volunteer bought it that year and kept it until the Minneapolis-based art gallery got it -- got it. Months later, the gallery owner says it's now listing it for sale -- for sale of $9.85 million. But it is in no rush to sell. Happy little trees, John. Happy little trees.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happy little trees. That painting were $10 million. The hair though, priceless.

BOLDUAN: Please stop.

BERMAN: All right. Hurricane Lee is speeding up as it gets closer to New England. It is just past Bermuda. It is now a category one storm.

The outer bands are expected to hit the U.S. later tonight with the worst conditions expected through Saturday afternoon across the New England coast. Now, CNN's Gary Tuchman got a rare look inside a hurricane hunter plane as they flew through the storm.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For this mission, this aircraft flies at altitudes between 41 and 45,000 feet. It travels about 500 miles per hour. This is essentially a flying weather station, a weather station that goes to the weather.

For the next eight hours, the men and women of the NOAA Corps will fly in this high-altitude reconnaissance jet above, below, around, and in front of Hurricane Lee.


BERMAN: All right, to be clear, Gary went up in that plane. I mean he's here and survived to tell about it. So, just talk to me what that was like to be inside as it was going through the storm.

TUCHMAN: Well, John, the technology is magnificent, but not more magnificent than the men and the women who operate the technology. They work for NOAA. This is a Gulfstream IV, this airplane. It's a business jet but it's reconfigured with lots of computer equipment to make it a flying laboratory.

It's called Gonzo. There's a picture of the Muppets character Gonzo on the front of the plane because as you may or may not know, Gonzo has an elongated nose. This plan also has an elongated nose because there's radar equipment in the nose. There's also a Doppler radar in the back.


And then throughout the eight-hour journey, 3200 miles most of it in circles. We could have gone to Europe in that eight hours but instead, we went in circles in the Atlantic Ocean. They dropped what's called dropsondes. And dropsondes are basically tubes that look like a Pringles can but there's no potato chips in it.

There is sonar, computer circuit boards, and a parachute. They drop them through the bottom of the plane. They float with a parachute down to the ocean, provide readings like temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure, and that's very important information.

And yes, John, a lot of turbulence on this plane. But there's also another NOAA plane that flies. It's called the P-3 Orion. That's a lower-altitude plane. It's a bigger plane.

It flies through the eye walls. I've done that before too. And that's otherworldly bouncing up and down while you're on that plane. A lot of turbulence.

BERMAN: Extreme discomfort. But so, they have all this technology for a reason. And this can make a real difference for people on the ground during a storm.

TUCHMAN: Right. So, all the data they get from the radar and from the dropsondes, it is embedded into computer models. Those computer models go to meteorologists all over the world, including our fantastic meteorologist here at CNN, and enables all the meteorologists to provide the most -- the best possible forecasts for what's happening with this hurricane.

It's all very impressive. And like I said, I have been in a couple of these planes before and these people are very brave. There's certainly a lot of risk when you fly in these missions. But they're just wonderful people to be with. And you're proud -- we're proud that they work for our government and help us out when these hurricanes are coming our way.

BERMAN: Incredibly cool. A lot of incredible technology there. Gary Tuchman, thanks so much for doing it. And you can watch Gary's full piece tonight on AC 360. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Lots of Dramamine. That's all I'm saying. Coming up for us. Thousands of union auto workers on the picket line for what can only be described as an unprecedented strike. The latest from the ground.



BERMAN: For the first time ever, the United Auto Workers Union has launched a strike against the Big Three automakers at the same time, demanding better pay and job protections. Thousands of workers are on the picket line at three plants right now. It's a targeted strike against three plants. But union leaders say the strike could grow if the demands are not met.

With us now is Darius Goodman. He is a member of the UAW who works at Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. Darius, thank you so much for being with us.

We want to note that your wife is a UAW member also. Neither of you works at a plant that's striking just now. But you do support this strike. Why is it so important?

DARIUS GOODMAN, UAW MEMBER; WORKS AT FORD IN DEARBORN, MICHIGAN: First of all, thank you guys for having me. Second of all, I think that this strike is important not only to build the middle class but to further help the United Auto Workers in what we -- what we stand for. And I think that Shawn Fain is doing a good job by calling -- call on a strike out so we can you know, get to -- get the things that we deserve.

BERMAN: Understood. And as of now, as I said, your plant is not striking, but it could. At some point, it could come to you.


BERMAN: How long could you survive being off work? I guess there's a $ 500-a-week strike payment, but how long could you live on that?

GOODMAN: I mean it would probably do some damage. But me and my wife both have been aware of a possible strike for quite some time now, so we've been doing our due diligence and trying to save up as much money as we can in case of things like this. So, that doesn't speak for everybody's situation, who works at all the plants, though. So, you know, it's one union one fight so I hope that we can all come to some kind of agreement so that it won't be an outlasting thing.

BERMAN: One of the things that the CEOs of these auto companies -- one of the things they have been saying is that, look, the UAW, they want a 40 percent pay increase. If we were to give that to you -- to them, that would bankrupt us. They say they just can't afford that. What's your response?

GOODMAN: My response to that is I don't think that it would cripple the economy or cripple their bottom line. They're making billions of dollars. And you know, it's just tiny.

In 2007, they came out saying that once we got back on our feet, we will kick back. And they're making record profits at this point in time. So, it's -- you know that's what the whole strike is about right now, as I was getting not -- getting back what we -- what we were told we were going to get back.

BERMAN: So, we are waiting to hear from President Biden on this. He is expected to make a statement, perhaps in the next few minutes on this strike. What do you want to hear from the president on this?

GOODMAN: I'm hoping that the president backs this. And I hope that he speaks on behalf of the union workers because it's something that you know, is due to this. It's not something that's made up installing or just being greedy or any of that. It is something that was promised to us and we deserve it.

BERMAN: All right, Darius Goodman, we wish you all the best. You're on your break right now. I do want to note. You know, this is important to you.

You've taken time out of your break in your workday to talk to us and deliver this message. We do appreciate your time. Best to you and your wife.

GOODMAN: Thank you very much. Thanks.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. Another critical moment for the war in Ukraine is upon us. President Biden is set to meet with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy in the United States next week amid moves with their counter-offensive. We'll discuss the significance. Next.



BOLDUAN: This morning, Ukraine is claiming a new success with a fresh attack in the Black Sea. The military says it has damaged and leased two Russian patrol ships in the southwestern portion of the Black Sea. All while Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is preparing for a very significant moment admits the grinding counter-offensive that is underway, preparing to travel to the United States.

Next week, he'll be meeting with President Biden who also be speaking before the UN General Assembly where they all have a chance to look other world leaders in the eye. Many of them supporting Ukraine's efforts, but also, some of them openly against Ukraine. Others still on the fence for their support of Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

Joining us now for more on this is Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army Forces in Europe. It's good to see you, General. Thank you for being here.

We have seen attacks like these in the Black Sea, and Russia-occupied Crimea expand in recent weeks. You think that these are important signs. What do you see here?

LT. GEN. BEN HODGES (RET), U.S. ARMY: Kate, I think it's important that these attacks we're seeing now in Crimea are within the context of the Ukrainian counter-offensive.


The counter-offensive is not just a land assault going for these minefields. It is multidimensional that is putting enormous pressure on the Russian general staff. And it also is beginning to make Crimea, the most important part of this war.

It's making Crimea untenable for Russian forces. So, all of these things are connected. And I think the Ukrainian general staff is running rings around the Russian general staff.

BOLDUAN: You know, President Biden, the -- we've got President Biden meeting with Zelenskyy next week around the UN General Assembly. You have Zelenskyy also will be visiting members of Congress, the U.S. Capitol. And you have -- as I -- as I said in the introduction, you have Zelenskyy, who will be standing before a gathering of world leaders at the UNGA looking them in the eye in this critical moment where you're seeing -- where, you know, what are we not -- we're 19 months in. And there's a question about continued support of Ukraine's efforts. How important is this visit for Zelenskyy and for Ukraine?

HODGES: Well, I think it's very important, though. The Russians, of course, are hoping that all of us will just get tired and will lose interest. That's their only hope.

And so, it's up to the president of the United States and a few other world leaders, particularly I think, the German chancellor, to talk to our population and say, look, this is in our interest. What's happening in Ukraine is not some on the other side of the world. This is in our strategic interest because American prosperity depends on European prosperity, which depends on security and stability. So, there's a practical aspect of this that's in our interest.

Of course, the Chinese are also watching to see, are we serious when we say we are for sovereignty, for -- respect for international law, respect for freedom of navigation, respect for international agreements. Are we serious about that? If we can't do that here in helping Ukraine against Russia, then I don't think the Chinese will be very impressed either.

BOLDUAN: This speaks directly to the letter that you co-wrote. You co- wrote a letter you sent to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to push the speaker and Republicans and all members of Congress, quite frankly, to continue supporting -- to support continued aid to Ukraine from the part of the United States. To remind folks of, I want to read one of -- one bit from your letter.

Now, is not the time, you write, to allow partisan politics to get in the way of supporting an ally that is fighting for freedom as well as their own existence. Ukrainians need our help. They need both military and non-lethal aid, and they needed it yesterday.

Why to speak up now? That's the one I -- it's easy to answer. There's a fight on Capitol Hill over continued funding. You're seeing polling numbers on declining support amongst Americans around supporting Ukraine. Have you heard anything back, Lieutenant General, from Republicans, from the speaker on this?

HODGES: Not directly from the speaker's office. Although obviously, I would love to have that conversation. Actually, I think the majority of the Congress in a bipartisan way continues to support Ukraine. Unfortunately, in the House, you've got a small number of extreme right-wingers that our -- seek maybe political gain, I'm not sure. I never would have imagined in my life that the party of Reagan would not be willing to support any effort against Russia -- against the Kremlin.

But I can't -- I can't understand exactly that. But I also don't understand why the president has not yet said to the nation, that this is in our interest. It is in our interest that Ukraine wins this war and so therefore, we're going to give them what they need to win. I think the president has to make the case as well.

BOLDUAN: And you have, which also just shows how important this when -- this meeting not only between Zelenskyy and Biden is but also when Zelenskyy goes to Capitol Hill at the -- at the -- towards the end of next week. I wonder what you think -- it -- what do you think he -- more he needs to say or can say to try to convince folks if they haven't seen it already and they have -- they don't understand already how important it is to continue U.S. support of Ukraine? What can -- what is he -- what is he to do when he goes to meet with members of Congress?

HODGES: Well, of course, I think trying to understand the enormous burden and pressure that is on our president and on the Pentagon, and the State Department trying to think through how do -- how do we do this? How do we achieve our strategic interests? And in this case, that means helping Ukraine win. They will be concerned, of course, about the potential for Russian escalation.

I think that's been in the front of their mind for a long time. I think President Zelenskyy can help put their mind at ease about the likelihood of Russia doing that. And even if Russia did use a tactical nuclear weapon against Ukraine, Ukraine is not going to stop. And so, I think this will be part of the conversation that they have.


And President Zelenskyy also has earned so much trust with so many leaders around the world. He can also probably help convey to them that this is also about American interests, about German interests, and he can help them make the case to their own population.

BOLDUAN: Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, thank you so much for coming in.

BERMAN: That is all for CNN NEWS CENTRAL this week.

BOLDUAN: Oh yes, it's Friday.

BERMAN: It is Friday.


BERMAN: Enjoy your weekend. "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next. Go Patriots.