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Explosions Heard in Multiple Ukrainian Cities; Ukraine Makes Preparations to Begin Grain Exports; Uvalde School Principal Breaks Silence on Mass Shooting; Costco Hot Dogs an Inflation-Proof Draw for Customers. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Christina Macfarlane. If you are just joining us here's an update on our top stories this hour.

In the coming hours U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to speak to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The White House hopes to get an idea of China's reaction to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's possible trip to Taiwan.

And the Biden administration says that it has offered Russia a prisoner swap. Infamous arms dealer Victor Bout in exchange for two Americans in Russian custody, Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. Russia has yet to respond to the offer.

Now several key reasons of Ukraine are assessing the damage from a series of overnight Russian strikes. Ukrainian officials say the capital region was hit along with Chernihiv and Kharkiv in the northeast. Powerful explosions were also heard in the southern city of Mykolaiv. This comes as the U.S. warns that Russia will soon make moves to annex Ukrainian territory that it's occupying.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Here is what we expect to see next. Russia installed leaders will hold sham referendums to manufacture the fiction that people in those places want to join Russia. Then they'll use those false votes to claim that the annexation of these regions is legitimate. We must and we will act quickly to make clear to Russia that these tactics will not work.


MACFARLANE: Well, amid the fighting Ukraine is moving closer to resuming grain exports will help ease a global food crisis. Jason Carroll joins me from Irpin in the Kyiv region, while Nada Bashir is in Istanbul. Jason, to you first. We know that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has made some ground overnight, mostly in the south and Kherson as well. But what more can you tell us about the reports of the major strikes in the Kyiv region?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, well, there have been a number of major strikes, some overnight in the area of Kharkiv, saw two missile strikes there. One in the city center, another one on the outskirts of town in the surrounding area. Also, this morning as you mentioned in Kyiv in the surrounding area on the outskirts, saw a missile strike there at what is being described as an infrastructure facility. The last time the area saw a strike was back in June. But once again, Christine, this is Moscow's attempt to show that they can strike anywhere basically at any time.

I think when you are taking a broader look across the country, when you look at the east, what they are seeing are incremental gains going back and forth on both sides. I think there is still a lot of attention in terms of what's happening in Kherson. Military experts say this is where Ukrainians are making a real effort.


We saw the bombing of that bridge there, a key bridge to the Russians who are occupying that area. Key to them in terms of trying to move resources in and out. So, a real effort there in the area of Kherson to either push the Russians back and try to regain some of that territory -- Christina.

MACFARLANE: All right, Jason, thank you. I want to turn to Nada who is in Istanbul, meanwhile. And Nada, while the world waits on these grain shipments, we saw the opening of that joint coordination center there yesterday. Did we learn anything more about plans to maneuver this grain safely out of the Black Sea?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: We heard from the Turkish defense minister who opened the joint coordination center yesterday to much fanfare. And he outlined the purpose of the center which is of course to follow and oversee the safe export of the grain from Ukraine southern Black Sea ports through the Black Sea through the Turkish straits.

But he also outlined that this had humanitarian objective at its heart. They are very much focused on the impact this will have on the global food security crisis. And it was remarkable to see those delegations from both Russia and Ukraine sitting across the table from one another taking part in this Black Sea grain initiative. This has taken weeks and weeks of negotiations by the Turkish government and by the United Nations.

And of course, there are still some concerns because we saw that attack on the port of Odesa last week just a day after that agreement was signed in Istanbul on Friday. So, there are concerns around the Russian Federation's true intentions on the Black Sea.

But as we understand at this stage, preparations are very much under way. They are in Ukraine to ensure that those grain exports are ready to leave the country. And at the end the Ukrainian armed forces will be escorting through aerial supervision those vessels to leave Ukraine through safe channels, safe corridors that have been identified and agreed upon by all four parties.

And it is this joint coordination center that'll play a central role. It is the heartbeat of this operation overseeing that entire process, that transfer of grain and other vital agricultural goods from both Ukraine and Russia.

We also spoke to the U.N.'s interim coordinator to the JCC and he was present yesterday and I asked him whether or not there were concerns around whether Russia would fully adhere to its commitments to this agreement, whether the U.N. had plans of how it would hold Russia to account. He didn't want to elaborate on how they would hold the Russian Federation to account, given the fact that we've already seen one attack.

But he did stress the United Nations remains very confident that all four parties will remain fully committed to the terms of the agreement. We've heard from Turkey's NATO allies and the United States and in the United Kingdom, both raising concerns around this suggesting the potential for perhaps a plan "B" which doesn't involve Russia. But at this stage all eyes are on this agreement and whether it will work over the coming days and weeks -- Christina.

MACFARLANE: Yes and striking as you say to see those four parties including Russia sitting down together. Nada Bashir there live from Istanbul, many thanks, Nada.

OK, still to come --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Starting at that school at Robb, that school needs to be gone. All of the school board needs to be gone.

MANDY GUTIERREZ, PRINCIPAL, ROBB ELEMENTARY: They are entitled to their opinion. I followed the training that I was provided with to the best of my abilities.


MACFARLANE: In an exclusive CNN interview, we'll hear from the principal of Robb Elementary in Texas for the first time after the deadly school shooting.



MACFARLANE: Pope Francis will celebrate mass in Quebec City today as he continues what the Vatican calls his pilgrimage of penance in Canada. The Pope is met with various indigenous groups saying he's sorry for the role Christians played in the abuse of indigenous children at a church run residential school. Some say his apologies haven't gone far enough. On Wednesday, he met with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Simon, Canada's first indigenous governor general. On Friday the Pope will be in northern Canada to meet with the Inuit groups before heading back to Vatican City.

Now to a CNN exclusive. And the principal of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is denying school officials have been complacent about school security. 19 student and two teachers were killed after a gunman stormed her school in May. CNN's Rosa Flores sat down with the principal in her first interview after a damning report by the Texas legislature included criticism of school safety.


MANDY GUTIERREZ, PRINCIPAL, ROBB ELEMENTARY: When I was calling Chief Arredondo, I heard three shots. The initial three shots.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The principal of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, breaking her silence and answering questions about allegations of lax security at the school.

GUTIERREZ: I believe that I did my job to the best of my abilities.

FLORES (voice-over): While law enforcement is handling of that ill- fated day has seen the most scrutiny up to now. The families of the victims.

BRETT CROSS, UVALDE PARENT: ... do not give a damn about our children or us.

FLORES (voice-over): Turning their calls for accountability towards the school administration, including the principal who says she was suspended with pay this week, pending a performance review relating to campus security. Last school year was her first year as principal.

CROSS: Every starting at that school at Robb, that principal needs to be gone. All of the school board needs to be gone.

GUTIERREZ: I believe they're entitled to their opinion. I followed the training that I was provided with to the best of my abilities.

FLORES (voice-over): The Texas House Investigative Committee report revealed that Robb Elementary had a culture of noncompliance with safety policies, requiring doors to be kept locked, which turned out to be fatal. Gutierrez responding to that criticism.

FLORES: Was there a culture of noncompliance at Robb Elementary?

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely not. Anytime that an alert went out, every single teacher on that campus took it to mean it could be a potential escalating situation. And so, every, everybody follows protocol.

FLORES: So, you disagree with the findings of the Texas House investigative report.

GUTIERREZ: I disagree.

FLORES: According to the Texas House investigative report, a coach that was somewhere on school property saw the gunman jumped this fence. She used her radio to report it. The principal heard the call and try using a software application.


But the Wi-Fi was bad and she did not use the school intercom.

GUTIERREZ: It could potentially magnify a situation.

FLORES: That's the door that the gunman used to enter the school according to the report, the door was unlocked. Had the door been locked as the policy required, it would have likely slowed down the gunman.

FLORES (voice-over): Instead, surveillance video showed the gunman walked into the building through an unlocked door.

FLORES: Why was that door unlocked that day?

GUTIERREZ: I am not sure why that door was unlocked.

FLORES: So that door was normally locked during the day?

GUTIERREZ: Always locked.

FLORES: Always.


FLORES (voice-over): Then walked into a classroom, the report also states that the principal, teachers and even many fourth grade students widely knew of the problem with a locked to room 111. But no one placed a work order to repair the lock. Not the principal, not anyone else. Gutierrez disputes that account.

GUTIERREZ: What I know for a fact is that the door did in fact lock.

FLORES: It did?

GUTIERREZ: The teacher has to use the key to enter.

FLORES: So somehow, the report says that it was likely unlocked. So somehow, it could have been unlocked on that day.

GUTIERREZ: That's possible.

FLORES (voice-over): Some of the families of the victims say any safety lapses were inexcusable.

FLORES: And what would you tell her?

CROSS: You failed our children, you failed our children.

GUTIERREZ: I am very close to my staff, and my students, and many of their families. It is an unimaginable pain to know that we don't have those individuals with this anymore and that there's families that are missing their loved ones every single day.

FLORES: The Texas house investigative committee standing by its report, the chairman issuing a statement to CNN saying that that report is based on interviews with multiple individuals from multiple agencies. As for the school district, a spokesperson said that they received our request for comment but said that they are too swamped to answer questions. Rosa Flores, CNN, San Antonio.


MACFARLANE: And our thanks to Rosa Flores for that exclusive report. We will of course continue to follow this story and bring you the latest.

OK, still to come with prices going up on just about everything these days, Costco still has one inflation-proof deal with a local fan base and a price that hasn't changed in almost 40 years.

Plus, the NFL's Aaron Rodgers explains his Halloween costume in July. Why he dressed up as one of his favorite actors on the first day of training camp.




AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: Life is not that serious. You know, I think it is easy to take things a little too seriously. There's a time and a place for everything. But I felt like I gave an ode to one of my all-time favorite actors last year for Halloween and an ode to my -- possibly my all-time favorite actor day one of training camp.


MACFARLANE: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers explaining why he dressed up like Nicolas Cage's character from the 90s action blockbuster "Con Air." Rodgers says it is one of his favorite Cage movies. Although he thinks a lot of them are great. And last Halloween Rodgers dressed up as Keanu Reeves from the John Wick movies and in 2019, he went from Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.

OK, whether it's groceries or gas, clothing or toys, there's not much that immune to inflation these days. But customers at the big box retailer Costco that there's one deal they can always count on, the hot dog combo, which has cost a mere $1.50 since it was first introduced almost 40 years ago. Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A typical scene at a Costco warehouse. Lots of shoppers looking for good deals on items ranging from paper towels to big screen TVs. But among many Costco customers like those here in Las Vegas, there is an emotional attachment to one thing in particular.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love these hot dogs, especially at Costco.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The hot dog that's inflation proof. TUCHMAN: How much do you pay for that hot dog?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hot dogs $1.50 with the soda as well.

TUCHMAN: Ladies, all three of you enjoying hot dogs. How come you come here for hot dogs?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they're an $1.50.

TUCHMAN: If I told you that this hot dog, and a soft drink that you can refill as many times you want has been $1.50 for almost 40 years, would you believe that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe it because I've been buying it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And she's far from the only one. Costco says since 1985 it has sold about 1.6 billion hotdogs at stores around the world. And despite inflation now and in the past, the price has stayed exactly the same for all those years.

TUCHMAN: How old are you?


TUCHMAN: How old are you?


TUCHMAN: How old are you?


TUCHMAN: Do you know these hot dogs with the drink have been $1.50 for longer than all three of you have been alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we've been going to Costco since we were kids with our parents. So that's how we know.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): It's the price that kept pace with inflation, that 1985 buck 50 hotdogs soft drink combo, would now costs more than $4. This store alone sold an average of almost 1,000 dogs a day in the last week. Costco loses quite a bit of money on hotdogs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the only place I eat hotdog from. Yes, I don't eat hot dogs.

TUCHMAN: Anywhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anywhere else, I don't even buy hotdogs. This is the only place I eat hot dogs.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Company recognizes the sanctity of the symbolism of the $1.50 price point. So now in this time of high inflation, Costco is publicly declaring it has no plans to raise the price of its hot dog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the one thing I can defend on being the same price.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's great. And it's probably the best hot dog I've ever had. I don't eat other hot dogs.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And frankly, not increasing the price of the legendary dog looks like a shrewd business move.


TUCHMAN: Do you think you'd do more shopping at Costco because you can get hot dogs inexpensively?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, yeah.

TUCHMAN: So, it makes you shop at Costco more?


TUCHMAN: The fact that they have low hot dog prices.


TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Las Vegas.


MACFARLANE: I tell you, I could really do with a Costco hot dog around about now.

It's been 35 years since the release of Rick Astley's "Never Going To Give You Up."


RICK ASTLEY, SINGER: Never going to give you up, never going to let you down, never going to run around and desert you. Never going to make you cry. Never going to say goodbye.


MACFARLANE: Besides going five times platinum, the song took on a new life as the famous Rick rolling prank when you unwittingly click on something unrelated and the tune pops up. The English singer's career hasn't given up either. He's released a remastered anniversary version of the hit and recently concluded a major U.S. tour with other performers whose hits are now golden oldies.


BEYONCE, SINGER, SONGWRITER: You won't break my soul, you won't break my soul, you won't break my soul, you won't break my soul. I'm telling everybody ...


MACFARLANE: Deja vu for Beyonce, the singers newest album released -- reportedly leaked in full on Wednesday. Two days ahead of its scheduled release. So far, the only official release has been the album's lead single "Break My Soul." The news got Beyonce fans dubbed the "beehive" buzzing calling on others not to share or listen to the leaks. And it's not the first time it's happened. In 2011, Beyonce's fourth album leaked three weeks early. Guys, some respect for Queen B, please.

OK, that is it. I'm Christina Macfarlane in London. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans is next. You're watching CNN.