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Consumers Feeling the Pinch at Grocery Stores, Gas Pumps; W.H.O.: Spike in Infections Driven by Omicron Variant; German Chancellor Urges Mandatory Covid Shots for Adults; Italy Makes Vaccines Mandatory for People 50+; Southeast Braces for Possible Snow in Coming Days; German Court Convicts Former Syrian Regime Official; U.S. Judge Rules Lawsuit Against Prince Andrew Can Proceed. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has drawn the top seed for the men's singles in the Australian Open. But he is still awaiting a decision whether he can stay in the country to compete. Australia's immigration minister is expected to make that decision any time now.

And House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy says he will not cooperate with the January 6 committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot. Now, the panel wants to know more about the phone calls he had with former President Donald Trump on the day of the attack. McCarthy's refusal makes him the third Republican lawmaker who is not cooperating with the committee. We'll have much more on those top two stories in about 30 minutes or so in "EARLY START."

Now, a new government report is backing up what U.S. consumers have really already noticed. Prices are way up from where they were just a year ago. It is the biggest jump in prices in decades. And to some Americans it will be a struggle really to make ends meet as our Brian Todd now reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At this grocery store here in D.C., customers getting crushed at the cash register.

ROBERT GOODE, GROCERY STORE CUSTOMER IN D.C.: Oh, like eggs, milk, mainly the basic things that you normally get, even on paper products. They've gone up.

MAKENNA SIEVERTSON, GROCERY STORE CUSTOMER IN D.C.: They have a preset vegetables that I used to make those for dinner, just put them in the oven. I noticed they've gone up maybe a dollar or two. And it's just a single, double serving. So, it is noticeable.

TODD (voice-over): Noticeable to seemingly every American consumer. The Labor Department has just reported that consumer prices were up 7 percent in December from a year earlier, the biggest one-year spike in prices in almost 40 years.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY, AUTHOR, WHAT DO WITH YOUR MONEY WHEN CRISIS HITS: You go to the grocery store and you reach for something and you go my goodness, this is much more than I used to pay for.

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: The typical American family is spending about $250 a month more to buy the same amount of things that they were buying a year ago.

TODD (voice-over): At the grocery store chicken prices have gone up 10.4 percent in the past year, the biggest increase in more than 17 years. Fish and other seafood up 8.4 percent, the largest spike in over a decade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: $34 for one bag of groceries.

TODD (voice-over): And at the pumps Americans paid a staggering amount by December. Nearly 50 percent more for gas than they had a year earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It'll be one price one day and then tomorrow it's like up 30 cents.

TODD (voice-over): And for those in the market for a new car or truck the biggest ever one-year spike in prices -- 11.8 percent higher. The reasons for the inflation spikes, analysts say, trace back to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

ZANDI: Really scrambled global supply chains, particularly in Asia, Southeast Asia. The factories shut down, ports shut down created shortages of all kinds of things from vehicles to lumber to clothing, and that caused prices to rise. And of course, the pandemic made people sick and made a lot of other people fearful of going to work because they might get sick. And that leads to labor shortages.

TODD (voice-over): And analysts say millions of American families already struggling to make ends meet due to the pandemic may have to make some serious sacrifices.

SINGLETARY: It really will mean that some people might actually have to skip a meal. Maybe, you know, they can't feed their children the way they want to. They will perhaps not be able to cover their rent, or all of their rent.


TODD: Is there any relief on the horizon for Americans? Mark Zandi of Moody's says he thinks there is once we get to the other side of the Omicron variant. He said within three to six months he believes gas bills and energy prices will come down. Then after that, probably food price wills stabilize. And by this time next year, after the chip shortage is eased a little bit, he expects the prices of new cars to come down.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: And now an update to a story we told you about yesterday if you were joining us at this time. Quebec, Canada is providing evidence that vaccine mandates do work. One day after the province announced it would impose fines on the unvaccinated, the health minister said there's been a spike in first-time appointments for vaccinations. The amount of the future fine is unclear, but it would not apply to those with medical exemptions. Nearly 90 percent of eligible Quebecers have at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, but the government says the unvaccinated remain a huge burden on the province's public health system.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has a warning. Do not take the Omicron variant lightly. The W.H.O. chief says there were more than 50 million new COVID cases worldwide last week. That is the most really in a single week, and that number was slightly underestimated. He added that this huge spike in infections is being driven by the Omicron variant.

Meantime, Spain has reported its highest-ever COVID-19 infection rate where the country's health minister said despite the rise in Omicron cases, the Omicron variant is placing less strain on the health care system.

And Germany's Chancellor is suggesting the country should make COVID- 19 vaccinations mandatory for all adults as the country hit its highest daily case count since the pandemic began.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau is live in Rome for us in monitoring all the developments out of Europe. And Barbie, we are seeing surging COVID cases and death in the case of Italy. What is being done to try and contain this spread of Omicron?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, so much is focused right now not on containing the spread which seems out of control, but on getting those people who are still reluctant to get vaccinated their first shots. And, you know, here in Italy it's going to be on February 1 mandatory for everyone over the age of 50 to be vaccinated or they could lose their job. They could face fines. And that's because the health authorities say those who are vaccinated just don't get as sick as the other people. You know, as they have been getting in terms of the other waves of the pandemic that we've seen.

There isn't the pressure on the health care systems that there was previously. And the people that are in the hospitals right now are primarily those people who haven't been vaccinated. But in terms of restrictions, we're not seeing anywhere near the kinds of restrictions we saw in the first waves of the pandemic. There have been sporadic lockdowns, but nothing like we saw previously in order to try to stop the spread.

You know, health authorities said this would happen about two weeks after the holidays when everybody sort of threw caution to the wind and went and got together and saw friends, and we're seeing the effects of that now. They're just hoping that these cases will peak, plateau and start to drop -- Isa.

SOARES: And Barbie, in the case of Germany, the Chancellor, as mentioned suggesting perhaps they should make vaccinations mandatory for all adults. I mean, how is that being received?

NADEAU: Well, you know, people who are vaccinated think that's great. They welcome it. It's always those reluctant people who don't believe in the vaccine or don't believe that they should be forced or mandated to have the vaccine. Those people get out and protest, spread the virus even further, but they will ultimately be punished across Europe because the health authorities are convinced that's the only way out of this, out of the pandemic, the only way forward, the only way to put this, you know, terrible couple of years behind us -- Isa.

SOARES: Barbie Nadeau for us in Rome this morning. Thanks very much, Barbie, good to see you.

Now, it is a major legal setback for Prince Andrew. Ahead, a judge's ruling in the British royal fight against allegations of sexual abuse.

Plus, could cold Canadian air is heading south. And it could mean snow in places not used to seeing it.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And eyes across the northern United States as another round of arctic air in the forecast, and potentially cold enough air into the southern United States where some wintry weather in store across areas as far south as Atlanta. Certainly, into portions of the Carolinas. More on that and the potential for snow coming up in a few minutes.



SOARES: Now, this just in to CNN. France will ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors from the U.K. starting this Friday. The French tourism minister says they'll no longer have to prove an essential reason for their trip or self-isolate -- if you remember -- upon arrival. The British travelers will still need evidence of a negative COVID test -- negative PCR test taken within 24 hours of departure.

Now parts of the southeast could be in for some rare snowfall as storm systems aim for the region in the coming days. Here's Pedram Javaheri with all the details. Good morning, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Yes, good morning, Isa. We've got a lot of changes in our forecast here over the next couple of days. But for now, it is somewhat quiet across the U.S. Mild temperatures across portions of Texas. A wintry mix in place around areas New England where temperatures have been kind of on a roller coaster ride in the last couple of days.

But ice accumulations across some of these areas with some freezing rain, some sleet as well, pushing up to around, say, 8/100s of an inch in place the last 24 hours. There's another system coming in. On the backside of it though is where it gets impressive. A secondary system drops way toward the South and it is going to be accompanied by very cold air. Forecasts on that could be impressive as well and we'll talk about this momentarily.

But you'll notice across portions of say the Dakotas into Wisconsin, into Iowa as well, some decent amount of snowfall accumulating, as much as 8 maybe 10 inches over the next couple of days as that system shifts farther to the South.

Now into the southern U.S., a secondary system develops right along the Gulf Coast. That supports an enhanced area of moisture which is precisely what you need in the southern U.S. to produce wintry weather. And of course, the other element is cold air. You'll notice with the arctic air we get a piece of very cold air that shoots kind of farther toward the south and sets up along the Gulf Coast.

So, the elements gradually come together for Friday into Saturday to produce a decent amount of snowfall into areas of, say, Arkansas and much of Tennessee and then as we transition from, say, Saturday into Sunday, that energy shifts a little farther towards the east where parts of Alabama, parts of Georgia get in on the action. And that's where the models have been kind of been lining up the last couple of days here, showing you the American model, the European model, the most consistent models we typically compare.

And again, consistency has been key in this forecast. Because you see accumulations possible around northern Georgia, maybe even metro Atlanta.


European model does want to bring heavier snow a little farther toward the south to include metro Atlanta. So, we're going to watch this carefully over the next couple of days and that system eventually ends up in the Carolinas and possibly into the mid-Atlantic as well.

But the temperatures, again, a completely different story for now. 58 in Atlanta is our afternoon forecast, 62 in Memphis. A lot of these cities may struggle to get up above the freezing mark by Sunday afternoon. And of course, we'll follow it as the week progresses -- Isa.

SOARES: Thank you very much, Pedram.

Now, the American Ambassador to the United Nations says the U.S. is calling for new U.N. sanctions against North Korea in response to its ballistic missile launches saying they violated security council resolutions. Now, earlier the United States announced it was imposing its own sanctions on the North after it fired off two, what it claims were hypersonic missiles in last week. Well, the U.S. sanction target at least eight North Korean and Russian individuals and entities linked to the North's weapons program.

Now, several American officials say the latest missile launched demonstrated some surprising capabilities. But warned that a fuller assessment still needs to be made. And it's not clear how successful the test was. Leader Kim Jong-un vowed in his New Year's message to bolster the military. Diplomacy between North Korea and the U.S. -- if you remember -- has been stalled for more than a year now.

We're bringing you the story just in to CNN. A German court has just convicted a former Syrian regime official for crimes against humanity. Now, Colonel Anwar Raslan was charged with complicity in 4,000 cases of torture, dozens of murders and three cases of rape and sexual assault at a notorious detention center in Damascus. He is the most senior Assad official really to be convicted of such crimes. Raslan deserted the Syrian regime in 2012 and fled to Germany.

Let's get more on the story. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh live now outside the courtroom in Koblenz, in Germany. And Jomana, this trial really is extraordinary for so many reasons. But what does the ruling of life imprisonment mean here for the countless victims who suffered torture under his watch?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, you know, in the last few moments we heard from inside the courtroom where the judges announced their verdict. They handed down, a life sentence for Anwar Raslan, who has been convicted for role in the torture of at least 4,000 detainees, for the death of at least 30 people. There is, as you mentioned, cases of sexual assaults and rape.

You know, this has been the trial, historic trial, the trial of one man, one detention facility in Damascus that has been in focus. But for so many victims of the Syrian regime, for so many people who have been fighting for justice in Syria, they tell you that this is not just a conviction of one man, not the trial of one man. This is an entire regime that is being convicted after a decade of impunity. Some of the worst crimes of the century that have taken place in Syria over the past ten years, and no one has really been held accountable for these crimes, Isa.

We've heard from one of the Syrian lawyers involved in the case calling this a victory for justice, a victory for the Syrian victims, and certainly this impunity, this lack of accountability has not been because of a lack -- the lack of evidence. This has been one of the most well documented conflicts in history, but it has been because the path to justice has been blocked by Syria's allies, Russia and China. Syria hasn't -- they haven't been able to refer Syria to the international Criminal Court. And this why victims, Isa, have found justice in Europe. In countries like Germany where the legal system has allowed national courts to prosecute grave crimes against international law under this principle of universal jurisdiction.

And for so many victims, this is a new path forward. Anwar Raslan ended up here after he defected as one of the refugees. But there are so many other Anwar Raslans, is what lawyers will tell you. And they're going to be going after them. They are not going to stop. They say that this is just the very first step in a very long road ahead for justice in Syria.

SOARES: And the reason why Raslan is not being shown -- the face is not being shown is because of German privacy laws. The story I know you'll stay on top of. Jomana Karadsheh outside the courthouse in Koblenz, Germany. Thanks very much, Jomana.

Now, the legal options are dwindling. Coming up, what's ahead for Prince Andrew as he faces the possibility of trial on charges of sexual abuse. Anna Stewart explains next.



SOARES: Now, a U.S. judge has ruled the sexual assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew move forward. Virginia Giuffre claims she was sexually trafficked to the British Prince by Jeffrey Epstein and that the Prince knew she was under age at the time.

Prince Andrew has steadfastly denied all the allegations and tried to have Giuffre's lawsuit dismissed. If the case is not settled, the Prince could face a trial date later this year.

Anna Stewart is here in London with the latest. And Anna, with this dismissal here, where does this leave Prince Andrew? What are the legal options?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, at this stage his options are increasingly limited and increasingly, Isa, out of his control. Because his team had really hoped that this case would simply be dismissed and that would be the end of it.

Now we're looking potentially at a trial which could be as early as September, but certainly expected by the end of the year. And this could be incredibly damaging. Both in the process that leads up to that, the discovery process would see depositions of Prince Andrew, possibly other members of his family, of the royal family. We could see an exchange of all sorts of documents from phone logs and diary entries to emails. And then, of course, the trial itself, and the potential for a guilty verdict at the end of this.


This would be very damaging for Prince Andrew, very undignified, but also by extension to the royal family. There is potentially, of course, the option of settling, and that might be a course of action that his legal team would prefer rather than going through the trial itself. However, of course, that means Virginia Giuffre would have to agree to it as well. And at this stage we don't know whether she would.

Yes, this is a civil case. She's looking for financial renumerations really at the end of the day. But rationally she might not actually want to have a financial settlement. She might want to have her day in court. She might want to see justice being done. We don't know at this stage. Although, Isa, it is hard to see unless Prince Andrew has these allegations cleared in court, it is hard to see any kind of way back for him to public life as a member of the royal family -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, all this coming in the same year as the Queen's Jubilee, of course. Anna Stewart there for us in London for us. Thanks very much Anna.

Now, affordable couches and pillows may be coming to a town near you very soon. Big Lots plans to open more than 500 new stores over the next several years in existing markets, rule and small towns and new areas as well. The discount home furnishing chain has done very little expanding in recent years but does have about 1,400 stores in 47 states.

Now, Taco Bell is waving good-bye to its wings. Fans of the dish have just a few hours to get them before they fly off the menu. The popular fast-food chain launched the crispy chicken as a limited time offer giving hungry customers just seven days to gobble them up. The short sales window is considered a way to drum up excitement, of course, for the brand. Get those wings fast.

That does it for me here in the show. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Isa Soares in London. Do stay in touch with me. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett is up next. I shall see you next week. I'm off tomorrow. Bye-bye.