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Toxic Train Derailment Will Be Addressed By Norfolk Southern CEO On Capitol Hill; Following Toxic Spill In East Palestine, Major Railroads Promise New Safety Precautions; Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Meets With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In Iran; Tel Aviv's Main Roads Blocked By Anti-Netanyahu Demonstrators; Bodies Of Two Americans Killed in Mexico Will Be Brought Back To The U.S. Today. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures now from a Senate hearing on the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Residents say, it has sickened them. Affected the water and soil in the area, also destroyed property values.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Norfolk Southern's CEO Alan Shaw is among the witnesses today. Lawmakers making a bipartisan demand for answers and action in the wake of that disaster. CNN's National Correspondent, Jason Carroll is live in Ohio this morning.

So, I know, Jason, as you have been, for some time now, you've been speaking with residents, with business owners about how they are coping. Where do things stand for them this morning?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, you can imagine, there is a great deal of worry here on the ground, not just from the residents, but the business owners as well. And Erica, this really paints the picture as the reason why. You see those blue containers over there?

They are located on the property of a factory which is literally right next door to where the derailment happened. The factory owner says because of what's happening here, his workers are too afraid to come to work. And so, the factory's basically shut down.

And that's the bottom line here. This has had a huge economic impact on the community here. Folks are going to be watching and asking what Alan Shaw intends to do about it.


CARROLL (voiceover): As the cleanup effort continues in East Palestine, Ohio, Mike McKim says, he has had enough.

MIKE MCKIM, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT AND CO-OWNER, MCKIM'S HONEYVINE AND WINERY: Sometimes when the wind is blowing the right way, it's almost unbearable to stay here.

CARROLL (voiceover): McKim is one of many residents who is taking Norfolk Southern up on its offer to pay people who live near the derailment site to temporarily relocate for the next two months. The EPA saying in a statement, Norfolk Southern has agreed to provide additional financial assistance.

This assistance may include temporary lodging, travel, food, clothing and other necessities. But McKim worry is not just for his home, it's also about the future of his business. He and his wife, Ashley, own McKim's Honeyvine and Winery, it's located about a block from the tracks.

MCKIM: I want to continue to stay here. I want things to be good here. I want things to go back the way where they were. But a million pounds of toxic waste were dumped 250 yards away from where we are standing at right now. What is your feelings on it, you know? Probably not good, right?

CARROLL (on camera): What about the blue containers?


CARROLL (voiceover): Edwin Wang has the same concerns. He owns two manufacturing plants in town that make parts for steel mills. The back doors of one of his factories, just feet away from the derailment, and steps away from where Norfolk Southern did a controlled burn of the toxic chemicals.

CARROLL (on camera): So, those tarps that you see over there, covering what you believe is contaminated soil --

WANG: Yes.

CARROLL: -- on your property?


WANG: I don't know what is going to happen to us in the future. They tried to remove the hazardous chemicals from this land, and I'm not sure that the impact will last for how long. That's the uncertainty.

CARROLL (voiceover): Wang says, no one from Norfolk Southern has come out to explain exactly what is happening on his property despite his attempts to reach them. In response, Norfolk Southern telling CNN, after initial contact Mr. Wang retained an attorney, who then scheduled a meeting with us before cancelling last minute.

We have not been able to reach him since, and we of course must go through his attorney. Regardless, we continue to be committed to making it right in East Palestine, and look forward to following through with Mr. Wang as well.

The rail company and the EPA say, the cleanup could take up to two months. Wang says, Norfolk Southern is temporarily compensating his employees during that time. But with no one to man the machines and fill back orders, he is not sure that there will be a business for his workers to come back to.

WANG: Right now, we are losing the business. We are also losing the skilled workers. People are scared. They are not willing to come back to work. This is the issue.


CARROLL: So, a lot of safety questions here as you can imagine, environmental questions. In terms of the economic questions here on the ground, I think what people here are looking for are some specifics, like the factory owner here. Will he be compensated in some other way?

Will other businesses here be compensated? And what about homeowners, if you live right next to the site of where all of this happened, will you be bought out? I think what they are looking for are specifics. And so, we'll see what happens when Alan Shaw testifies later today. Guys, back to you.

HILL: Yes, understandable that they want specifics after dealing with this for so long and not know what lies ahead. It's such a great piece. Jason, thank you.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Israel this morning, wrapping up his trip to the Middle East. He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as protests flare against the Israeli leader.

SCIUTTO: Demonstrators are rallying against Netanyahu's plans to weaken Israel's judicial system this morning. Those protesters blocked a major road that leads to the airport. CNN's Jerusalem Correspondent Hadas Gold joins us now live from Tel Aviv.

Hadas, these protests build as a day of disruption. It was interesting to see Lloyd Austin address this issue directly in Israel.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we did -- yes, Jim. We did see him address it directly, something rather unusual considering he is secretary of defense. But now, President Biden, as well as Secretary Antony Blinken, have all addressed these massive protests against these judicial reforms that after core (ph) would essentially allow the Israel parliament, the Israeli politicians to overturn Supreme Court decisions.

In fact, Lloyd Austin's own trip to Israel was disrupted by these protests. The Pentagon is saying Israeli officials asked him to delay and then rejigger the schedule. Essentially, he met officials all at a complex right by the airport because those protesters, they were blocking, essentially, the main roads leading up to the airport, trying as much as they could to essentially disrupt the normal flow of operations.

Then later, we went to the -- to this main highway in Tel Aviv where protesters also took to that main highway -- this massive highway that cuts through all of Tel Aviv, essentially, completely bringing traffic to a standstill for quite some time until police forcibly removed them using dozens of officers, as well as mounted police. Now, the protests today did not get as violent as the protest last week where we saw Israeli police with a much heavier hand, throwing stun grenades, using water cannons. But still, we are still seeing some remnants of those protesters here in the streets now in Central Tel Aviv. We're still hearing people debate behind us over these judicial reforms.

But it was really interesting to hear the secretary of defense weighed into this debate. He was essentially quoting President Biden standing right next to the Israeli defense minister. Saying that the genius of American and Israeli democracy is checks and balances and an independent judiciary. It was a rare foray into internal politics by a U.S. official, but a clear message to the Israelis to come into a consensus with the opposition over these planned reforms. Jim, Erica.

SCIUTTO: Hadas Gold, thanks so much.

Well, the families of two Americans kidnapped and killed, sadly, in Mexico are now waiting today for their bodies to be brought home to U.S. soil. This, as the surviving victims eagerly wait to return home.



SCIUTTO: Today, the bodies of two Americans killed during a kidnapping in Mexico will be returned here to the U.S. The remains of Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown will be taken to a funeral home in Brownsville, Texas. They, and two others, had traveled from South Carolina to Mexico so one of those in the group could have a medical procedure.

HILL: CNN's Carlos Suarez is live this morning in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

So, Carlos, do we have any update on the two who did survive? How are they doing this morning?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Erica, good morning.

We know that one of the Americans that was kidnapped is doing OK this morning. LaTavia Washington McGee, she was not hurt in all of this. And according to her family, she could be back here in South Carolina as early as today. Now, her friend, Eric Williams, he's the other survivor in this, we're told he is recovering in a hospital in Texas after he was shot in the leg several times.


As you mentioned the bodies of Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard, they're expected to be brought back to the U.S. At some point today, we're told that a second autopsy will take place on those two bodies and then they will be turned over to a funeral home and then eventually be released to the family members.

Now, here in Myrtle Beach, last night, about an hour out in Lake City, A couple of vigils took place to remember the four friends in the city that they grew up. Folks in that community got together last night. Again, to remember the lives of Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard.

Now, according to McGee's mother, she has been in contact with her daughter. Again, she was not hurt in all of this. She is still talking to investigator and authorities about all of this and the details leadings up to this kidnapping and subsequent death. McGee and her three friends, one of them was her cousin, they'd all taken a ride down to Mexico for what the family says was a medical procedure.

Now, McGee's mother had hoped that her daughter might be able to come back yesterday, however we were told that was not taking place. And so, the hope is that she might be able to be -- she might be able to get back home here in South Carolina at the earliest later today if not on Friday. Jim and Erica.

HILL: Carlos Suarez, appreciate the update this morning. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, Amazon, of course, dominates online. But it's now reducing its brick-and-mortar presence. What it means for the company's future retail strategy, that's coming up.



HILL: This morning, we are learning Tiger Woods' girlfriend has filed two lawsuits involving the golf superstar. In one of those, she wants a nondisclosure agreement that she had signed but then thrown out. The other one involves a trust and potentially $30 million.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now with more.

Jean, do we know what his girlfriend appears to be accusing him of?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here is what we know, and this is based on a legal document. Erica Herman was in a relationship with Tiger Woods for six years. They broke up, and she filed suit near the end of last year saying, I had an oral tenancy agreement -- oral, that I could live in the home that's owned by the Trust in Florida. And she says, I was kicked out, and because of that, I am asking for actual damages in excess of $30 million.

Now, she goes into details of what happened. She alleges that at one point, the representatives of the Trust and the suit is against the Trust that owns the home and the land. That representatives contacted her and said, you've got to take a short trip, pack your bags, get to the airport. She did, once there, they told her, you're not invited to stay at that home anymore and you are locked out of that home. And then they went on to say that maybe we can reconcile this and do something, so she is alleging that.

Now, she filed a second lawsuit with a nondisclosure agreement saying it's not valid. In response, Tiger Woods filed a response trusted for him saying that she was invited in that home, legal word invited, meaning it can be revoked at any time, while the relationship was going on. This is the home that he and his kids live in, and this needs to be decided in arbitration. We do understand it has been in arbitration but the next step is whether that nondisclosure agreement is valid or not.

SCIUTTO: Jean Casarez, thanks so much.

CASAREZ: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, like many major retailers, Amazon has not been able to escape the brick and mortar struggle. The company says it is now closing eight of its cashierless stores.

HILL: CNN's Nathaniel Meyersohn, joining us now with more.

So, in terms of the impact here on Amazon's brick and mortar strategy, is this a big hit?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Erica, Amazon just can't seem to get its physical store strategy right. It said this week it's going to be closing eight Amazon ghost stores in Seattle, San Francisco, New York City. And these Amazon ghost store, they don't have cashiers, you can just walk out without going through the checkout process. But the technology never really caught on with shoppers.

And it's just the latest example of Amazon struggling with brick and mortar stores. It's open grocery stores, bookstores, pop up stores over the past few years. None of them have been that successful. It also bought whole foods a few years back, but those stores have, kind of, stagnated. So, Amazon, the king of online shopping, you know, just can't really get people to shop in stores.

HILL: Stick to what you know, I guess.

SCIUTTO: No questions. So, one place where folks are shopping in stores, Dollar Stores. This often happens during downturns in the economy. What do we know?

MEYERSOHN: So, Jim, there are about 35,000 Dollar Stores in the U.S. To give you a sense of that number, that's more than the number of McDonald's, Starbucks, and Walmart locations in the entire country, about one in every stores opening this year is a Dollar Store. And it's being driven by income inequality, the shrinking middle-class, and then rising inflation, pushing more folks to shop in the dollar stores.

But a new report shows that many communities are pushing back, Cleveland, Birmingham, New Orleans, they've all restricted the growth of Dollar Stores. And that has to do with the fact that dollar stores often push out small and local grocers. They don't sell much fresh food. And they pay some of the lowest wages in retail. So, there's been a lot of protest against them.

HILL: It would be interesting to see how that turns out then. Nathaniel, appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, thanks to all of you for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "At This Hour with Kate Bolduan" starts after a quick break.