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U.S. Economy Barometer Potentially Signaling a Recession; Buffalo Bills Player Pays Live Forward; NASA's DART Mission Prepares for an Asteroid Collision; U.S. Space Force Debuts Its Official Song, Gets Sorely Mocked. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 22, 2022 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: A comprehensive assessment of the health of the U.S. economy dropped in August for the sixth straight month. Now this is the leading economic index, and it is further fueling recession fears. It follows yesterday's historic interest rate hike. CNN's Matt Egan and Rahel Solomon are here now. Matt, these factors indicate that we're on this path towards a recession.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, I think we're clearly in dangerous territory. I don't think it's a foregone conclusion but there's reason to be concerned. Look at this report that came out today, this leading economic index. They track ten different metrics across the economy, everything from housing and manufacturing to jobs. And in the last six months, all but two of those index components were in negative territory.

The conference board which puts out this index, they said that this six-month slump is potentially signaling a recession. Pretty stark language there. Now, we should note there are bright spots in the economy. The jobs market is still strong. Consumers are still spending. But the problem of course, is that inflation is really high. And the Federal Reserve is pulling out the big guns to try to get inflation under control.

I mean, yesterday they didn't just do another jumbo-sized interest rate hike, they signaled that they're going to keep raising interest rates. And that's going to of course deliver some pain to the real economy. Just look at what's happening in the housing market. We've seen sales come down really sharply as mortgage rates have gone up because the Fed is fighting inflation. The mortgage rate is now 6.3 percent. That's the highest since October 2008. It's doubled over the past year.

And even though the jobs market is hot, the Fed is signaling that they're going to slow down the jobs market. They expect the unemployment rate to rise. That means there's going to be layoffs. Fed Chair Jay Powell he said he wishes there was a way to get inflation under control without creating pain but said it's probably not possible.

BLACKWELL: Rahel, what do you think? RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think, to Matt's point,

every day we are getting some data that signals that we're heading straight towards a recession or at the very least in danger of a recession. And then we get the next day some report that suggests, well maybe we'll actually be OK.

And today we got that on the labor front. We got weekly jobless claims. This is a look at how many Americans are filing for unemployment benefits and that came in at 213,000, which is low. I mean, the labor market remains very strong, which is important as we weather through this period of higher interest rates.

That said, when we heard from Chairman Powell yesterday, he suggested that the unemployment rate will be going up. We will see joblessness, right. So, the unemployment rate right now at 3.7 percent. Powell said he expects that to be closer to 4.4 percent next year. So, what does that mean for you at home? It's not necessarily something you want to panic about. But when you hear the chairman of the Federal Reserve say he expects some joblessness, it is something you want to pay attention to.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about holiday employment, because Walmart now ahead of the shopping season is making some moves.

EGAN: Yes, Walmart says they're going to hire 40,000 for this seasonal ramp-up for the holiday shopping season. It sounds like a lot but this is actually a big drop-off from last holiday season when Walmart was targeting 150,000 workers. This is a sign that retailers are expecting lower demand this holiday season especially as people are dealing with high inflation.

Now I know that summer literally just ended, but the retailers are planning to start the holiday shopping season soon, like really soon, like October. Both Walmart and Target say they're going to start offering deep discounts on clothes and electronics and other gift categories next month. And this is happening in large part because they know that shoppers are trying to get ahead of inflation. And you know, we know if Walmart and Target are doing this, others are going to follow suit as well. So, I think this means the holiday shopping season is going to be start earlier than ever.

SOLOMON: Yes, so, should we send you our lists now? Just doesn't mean you're going to buy it.

BLACKWELL: Feel free to send whatever you like. Rahel Solomon, Matt Egan, thank you.

BLACKWELL: It's a mission ten months in the making and now a spacecraft is just days away from colliding into an asteroid and they're doing this on purpose. Sounds like "Armageddon," the movie. Next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: This week our series called "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" is highlighting people who are rising to the occasion, tearing down barriers and making the world a better place. Wolf Blitzer's champion is an NFL athlete from his hometown team, the Buffalo Bills. Dion Dawkins is a star player on the field, but it's his effort off the field that's helping elevate his local community.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news out of Buffalo, New York. Police say they have a suspect in custody after a mass shooting at a grocery store there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are hurting in the city of Buffalo.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Buffalo shooting suspect was plotting a racially motivated slaughter for months. Visiting the city back in March and potentially --

BLITZER: This one was different for me personally because I'm from Buffalo. I grew up here and I know that area in east Buffalo where that Tops supermarket is. And you look at the pictures of the men and women who were killed that day, and they were just people going to the supermarket. And all of a sudden, they were just gunned down by this terrorist.


MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO NEW YORK: It deeply affected everyone with a Buffalo connection, and it really brought tremendous joy to people when Dion Dawkins and just about every member of the Buffalo Bills came to serve food to people in the community, to hug people in the community. It really lifted spirits.

DION DAWKINS, BUFFALO BILLS TACKLE: You could feel the energy there. It could have been me. It could have been my father. Well, it was sad, Wolf.

BLITZER (voice over): Moved after visiting the Tops memorial, Dion Dawkins penned a powerful editorial in the Players Tribune, a media platform for professional athletes.

DAWKINS: Someone with nothing but evil in his heart, he tried to destroy our bond. This is Buffalo. This will not break us. This is our home.

BLITZER: As soon as you became to Buffalo, you began to appreciate how wonderful these folks are.

DAWKINS: Immediately and I mean immediately. Like the love that they give us here is unmatched.

BLITZER (voice over): He's not originally from Buffalo but he wanted to give back and he has given back.

BLITZER: You actually went out and did something. Tell us a little bit about that.

DAWKINS: My foundation, Dion's Dreamers started off with mentoring children and just being like a big brother.

DAWKINS: How are you doing? What's up, kid?

DAWKINS (voice over): I'm putting my effort into doing everything I can to make them the best. We're getting them the best lessons or putting--

BLITZER: To make their dream come true.

DAWKINS: To make their dream come true, exactly. And that feeling of being wanted is one of a kind.

BLITZER: This is before the massacre.

DAWKINS: Before, yes. And then once that happened, like, you know, but your heart changes. It changed from that to, man, those people on the east side of Buffalo, their food source is gone. So, my focus just changed in that direction from being just that bigger brother to actually feeding people and, you know, giving them the supplies that they would go to Tops to get.

BROWN: Dion held a number of special events after the massacre to raise money for some of the funds that have been set up for the families.

CHRISTINE FARRELL, BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF ERIE, NIAGARA AND SOUTHERN TIER: It's no secret that he has a powerful presence in the community and he has used his platform in so many ways.

DAWKINS (voice over): Food drive let's do it. If it's a block party, let's do it. If it's a concert, backpack, school day, whatever it might be to help that community at that moment, let's get it done.

BLITZER (voice over): My parents were outsiders who came here, could barely speak English, had very little money. The city of good neighbors, Buffalo, New York, welcomed them, gave them opportunities. It makes me proud to know that people like Dion are doing what they're doing.

DAWKINS: The secret is literally the people here. The people make Buffalo everything.


BLACKWELL: Wolf is with me now. Wolf, good to see you. I know you spent some time obviously in Buffalo, met with Dion, the other players and coaches. Also, we saw that you spoke with the Mayor Byron Brown. Very personal for you. What was it like to see the impact of their work on your hometown?

BLITZER (on camera): It was very emotional. I knew the area well where this massacre took place, the Tops supermarket massacre in east Buffalo. When I was a kid growing up -- we grew up, you know, in a different neighborhood in Buffalo, but my dad and I had season tickets for the Buffalo Bills. And in those years, the Bills played at the Old War Memorial Stadium in the east side of Buffalo. So, I knew that area fairly well.

And when this guy, this killer, just drove 300 miles or so from Binghamton, New York, he was an acknowledged -- he himself acknowledged, he said he was a racist, he was a white supremacist, he was an anti-Semite. He had written about all of this on social media posts. Came to Buffalo, will went to an area in Buffalo which was predominantly black, the east side of Buffalo, and wanted to kill as many black people as he possibly could. He wound up killing, you know, a whole bunch of wonderful, wonderful people.

I went to that supermarket that Tops supermarket which has no reopened. But in the parking lot, the front there's this huge memorial with the pictures of all the people who were killed. Grandmothers who just went to the supermarket to get food for the kids and grandkids, killed simply because they were black. And it was so painful to see that this had happened in my hometown of Buffalo, New York, which I love so much. And I think everybody from Buffalo was so moved and so upset that this could happen in our hometown.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's so good to see the work that Dion and others are doing there. When I was there reporting, more than one person said don't forget about us. And I'm glad that you went back to share that story. Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

BLITZER: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: And be sure to tune in for "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" this Saturday night. It airs at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.


The special master overseeing the Mar-a-Lago documents case, just told Trump's legal team they need to back up his claims that the FBI planted evidence. More on that ahead.



BLACKWELL: The head coach of the Boston Celtics is expected to be suspended for the entire NBA season. That's according to several media outlet. Ime Udoka reportedly had a consensual relationship with a female member of the team staff which is in violation of the franchise's code of conduct. Well, last season, Udoka coached the Celtics to their first NBA finals appearance in more than a decade but lost to the Golden State Warriors.

In just a few days, NASA will test a mission that sounds like from that movie "Armageddon." Did you see it? It has a 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. A spacecraft that will deliberately crash into an asteroid's moon. CNN's space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher joins us now. So, NASA just finished up a press conference on this mission. Ten months' in the making. What did we learn? KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of

all, Victor, I cannot believe you're knocking "Armageddon." It is a classic. But second of all and most importantly, at this briefing NASA announced that this spacecraft, the DART spacecraft is healthy and ready for impact on Monday.

What NASA is trying to do is the world's first planetary defense test mission. They're going to take the DART spacecraft which is about the size of a refrigerator and they're going to slam into an asteroid called Dimorphos, which is about the size of the pyramid of Giza. And the goal is to see if they can push that asteroid slightly off course. This asteroid, no danger to planet earth. But the idea is if we're able to prove that this technology works that you can push it off slightly off course, then, Victor, if there's a killer asteroid that is headed for earth that you'd be able to essentially save the planet of all of humankind. Here is NASA's chief scientist and climate adviser speaking at the grieving just moments ago.


KATE CALVIN, CHIEF SCIENTIST IN SENIOR CLIMATE ADVISER, NASA: The dinosaurs didn't have a space program to help them know what was coming but we do. And so, DART represents an important progress in understanding how to avoid potential hazards in the future. And how to protect our planet from potential impacts.


FISHER: And so, Victor, one of the other really amazing things about the mission is the DART spacecraft which is short for the Double Asteroid Redirect Test. It is equipped with these incredible cameras. And so, they are going to be beaming back live images on Monday night as the spacecraft approaches the asteroid. And so, we're all going to get to watch this live and in real-time as the spacecraft gets closer and closer to the asteroid and then it's just going to go black. So, NASA has never done this before. They're incredibly excited. And world going to get to watch it live on Monday night.

BLACKWELL: They could save a lot of money and just call Billy Bob Thornton. I really think that we've already done this. We know it works.

FISHER: Or Bruce Willis.

BLACKWELL: Or Bruce Willis, all right. Kristen, stay with me. The U.S. space force finally has its own official song. It debuted this week. It's getting some mixed reactions as Americans are trying to figure out what to make of it. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The space force had already launched its own insignia, its own uniforms. Now it's got its own songs.

SINGERS: We're the mighty watchful eye ... MOOS (voice over): There were a lot more watchful eyes on the internet. May the cringe be with you.

SINGERS: The invisible front line.

MOOS (voice over): The New York Magazine snarked let's hope the aliens aren't music critics. A military audience applauded. While a late night audience laughed.

I thought it was 100 percent satire and hilarious.


MOOS (voice over): Posters took the liberty of adding --

SINGERS: Bolding reaching into space.


MOOS (voice over): More interesting visuals.

SINGERS: We're the mighty watchful eye.

MOOS (voice over): Even Steve Carell who starred in the canceled Netflix series.

STEVE CARELL, ACTOR: Space force which mark will run. What?

MOOS (voice over): Ended up having the words to the song he sang.

MOOS (voice over): Changed and new words put in his mouth.

SINGERS: Warfighters brave and true.

MOOS (voice over): Even declared it's not a banger. Air Force Chief of Staff General C.Q. Brown told the website, I'm sure it will grow on us.

This military podcaster was moved to grunt along to it.


MOOS (voice over): Many complained that instead of sounding futuristic --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds like it's from the 1910s.

MOOS (voice over): Some even noted a vintage vibe reminiscent of the Mighty Mouse theme.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, MIGHTY MOUSE, CBS: Here I come to save the day.

MOOS (voice over): That means the mighty space force.

SINGERS: ... is on the way.

MOOS (voice over): Jeanne Moos, CNN --

SINGERS: We're the space force from on high.

MOOS(voice over): -- New York.


BLACKWELL: I couldn't put my finger on it until they played the Mighty Mouse theme. And that's what I hear, what do you think?

FISHER: You know, I feel for the space force, because they've been the butt of so many jokes ever since their creation. They're trying to, you know, come across as, you know, really credible here. But, gosh, you know, I just wish it sounded a little more -- maybe a little more modern, maybe throw in a reference to baby Yoda or something.

BLACKWELL: I mean, give me a beat, something I can ride to.

FISHER: There you go.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kristen Fisher, thank you so much.

And "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts a after a short break.