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Disney Stripped Board of Powers before State Takeover; Weekly Jobless Claimed Rise Slightly; Nicholas Kristof is Interviewed about Russia Arresting an American Reporter; Tipping Culture Overwhelming Customers. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 08:30   ET




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning, a new twist in the ongoing feud between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The new board picked by DeSantis himself to oversee the entertainment giant special taxing district says Disney has rendered them powerless. This just weeks after DeSantis signed a bill meant to give him a -- give him new power over Disney and the so-called Reedy Creek Development District.

Listen to this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. There's a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.


LEMON: That was in February, late February. The law resulted in the hostel state takeover of Disney's special district. But it seems the company was one step ahead of the governor because just weeks before that bill was signed, Disney and the outgoing board reached an agreement that would allow the company to hold onto its power in central Florida for the next 30 years.

CNN reporter Steve Contorno has been following this story and joins us now.

Steve, good morning to you.

What a twist. I mean Disney quietly stripping the new board of its authority before the state takeover last month. How'd o it?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Don, you might say they did it quietly, quiet as a mouse. And, you know, when you look at the events over the last month, it was quite interesting.

[08:34:53] While lawmakers were meeting in Tallahassee to strip the governor, or, excuse me, strip Disney of this governing power and install this new board appointed by the governor, Disney was holding its own meeting with its -- with the outgoing board, where they very quietly arranged for -- to hand over much of their power over Disney to the company, including its ability to decide on development plans, basically saying that anything that the new board does on Reedy Creek district property has to be approved by Disney. Even if it's putting a clause in there that says that this new board can't use any of Disney's characters, like Mickey Mouse, in any of its promotional materials.

So, the new board came in, and they discovered all these existing agreements were already in place, and now they are scrambling to figure out what exact power they have over this giant entertainment complex.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Steve, I imagine, though, that this new board is pushing back on this. What are we hearing from them or from the governor's office about how they're responding to this and what - what they're version of this is?

CONTORNO: Yes, Kaitlan, they are exploring what legal options they might have. And yesterday they held a board meeting where they actually hired four different firms that are going to go through these agreements and go through financial statements and just figure out exactly what Disney has done here and whether there's any potential recourse against the company.

But Disney is standing by its action. They put out their own statement too last night telling me, quote, all agreements signed between Disney and the district where appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida's government in the Sunshine law.

So, clearly, this is not over yet, and we are heading towards some kind of legal battle over these new powers that Disney has shifted to itself.

LEMON: All right, Steve Contorno, thank you.

COLLINS: All right, just moments ago, we got the weekly unemployment numbers. Why the Federal Reserve is rooting for job loss in order to tackle inflation.

LEMON: And this just in, Brazil's former president, Jair Bolsonaro, returning to the country for the first time since losing re-election in October. A loss that culminated in thousands of his supporters riding in protest. Bolsonaro flew back to Brasilia (ph) from Florida, where he stayed for three months in self-imposed exile.

More CNN right after this.



COLLINS: All right, just in, we have the weekly jobless numbers.

Our CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here to break it down.

What are they, and what do they mean?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So, they show 198,000 people filed for the first time for unemployment benefits in the most recent week. That's up about 7,000 from the week before. But this trend, you guys, has been stubbornly low. And I say that, how can it be stubbornly low, you know, jobless claims. These are layoffs essentially. They have been very, very low in this economy, and that is something that has translated into some concern among Federal Reserve officials and economists, frankly, because this kind of a tight, tight labor market can be contributing to inflation. And so it's one of those stories where you keep hearing consternation that the Fed or economists would be rooting for some more layoffs or rooting for job loss because that would be one of the ways you could cure inflation. So, it's one of one of the sort of undercurrents of the conversation right now that when jobs numbers are -- are so strong like this, that can be a problem on the inflation front.

LEMON: I try not to really think about it too much. I just listen to you and say, OK, whatever -- whatever Christine says.

ROMANS: That's sweet.

LEMON: The revision of GDP just released. What do these figures show?

ROMANS: So, this is the final read on what the fourth quarter looked like. And it's 2.6 percent. That's down a little bit from the earlier read of 2.7 percent. But you can see, that's pretty much -- that's pretty much putting in the rear-view mirror, that slowdown we saw at the beginning of last year. So, the end of the year last year ending on a pretty strong note. And again, the underlying economy, despite what you've heard in tech layoffs, despite what you've heard in bank failures, at least until the end of last year, the underlying U.S. economy remains strong here despite those other problems you've been hearing about.

Now, where it goes in the future, nobody has a clue. And the more confident they are in their forecasts, the more you should be careful of their prognostications because no one knows what's really going to happen yet. But I can tell you, the underlying basis of the economy is still strong.

LEMON: Christine Romans, thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

LEMON: Appreciate that.

So, the breaking news this morning, American journalist Evan Gershkovich detained in Moscow and accused of espionage. A Russian state news agency, TASS, reports that a Moscow court has formally arrested him now. He's the first U.S. reporter accused of spying by Russia since 1986. "The Wall Street Journal" vehemently denying the allegations and is calling for his immediate release.

We're joined now by "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Good morning to you.


LEMON: You frequently travel overseas. Obviously, you're a reporter working in this field. This is chilling. What do you think of this?

KRISTOF: I think every journalist feels a certain (INAUDIBLE) when you have a colleague somewhere who is imprisoned for committing journalism. And Evan is not a spy. He committed journalism. And, I mean, I guess one of the things that troubles me is that the kidnapping of journalists and hostage taking, that started with these, you know, independent terrorist groups and they just spread to countries. North Korea, Iran, China kidnapped the two Michaels for advantage, and now Russia. And, you know, they find advantage in taking hostages, and we have to change that dynamic. Not just for Evan's sake, for all of us.

COLLINS: And I think what Britney Griner's situation showcases is the judicial system in Russia is not fair. And we are -- and you can't -- they're not reliable. You can't count on them to be -- to be fair. And we're now just learning that the lawyer who is representing him was actually not even allowed to attend the hearing, according to Russian state news.

KRISTOF: And this is a huge step backward. I mean the - the last time this happened in Russia was Nick Daniloff in 1986.


KRISTOF: And it wasn't even Russia, it was a Soviet Union.


KRISTOF: And, you know, since then, journalists have reported. You felt some confidence that you could go and embarrass Putin and embarrassed Moscow and you would not be in prison.


And, over the last year, since the Ukraine operation, I think we've all been nervous that reporters could be imprisonment, but we thought it was more going to be for reporting that there was a Ukraine war, not for espionage. And Evan is now facing 20 years in prison. It's outrageous.

LEMON: Let's turn to China now, because just in, China says that Taiwan's president's visit to the U.S. today seriously violated its sovereignty. Tensions are very high right now.

KRISTOF: Look, Presidents Tsai has, you know, made trips to the U.S., like this stopover, more or less once a year. This has happened forever. And, in fact, this was a way of having her meet Kevin McCarthy in the U.S. rather than have Kevin McCarthy go to Taiwan, which would have been more destabilized.

I can say, China is, you know - they're (INAUDIBLE). I hope that they won't do something further like military exercises in the Taiwan Strait or, worse, provide weaponry to Ukraine -- to Russia.

COLLINS: To use in Ukraine.

Yes, and we've seen - we saw they responded when Pelosi went and how provocative those reactions were.

We heard from Mark Milley, who is the -- General Mark Milley. He's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He's been testifying on Capitol Hill this week, talking basically broadly about the state of relations. This comment from him really stood out to me.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Any coherence and cohesion between Russia and China, in this particular strategic environment that we're in, we're seeing that where the two of them are getting closer together. I wouldn't call it a true, full alliance and the real meaning of that word, but we are seeing them moving closer together, and that's troublesome. And then if you add in Iran as the third. So, those three countries together are going to be problematic for many years to come, I think.


COLLINS: Maybe not an alliance, but certainly in alignment.

KRISTOF: That's right. And I think, you know, a year ago China said it had a no limits partnership with Russia, and clearly there are limits to it. But the fact that they are getting closer, I think, is deeply alarming. And in particular the one thing that would completely change the dynamic in Ukraine is if China provided large numbers of artillery shells to Russia. That would completely upend where things are headed. And I think that's what I worry about most.

LEMON: Last thing, just getting back to Russia again. So, you travel. What do you say to -- about -- your last words on this journalist? Where do you want this to go? What do you think should happen?

KRISTOF: So, I would -- you know, I'm sure the State Department will be telling the family and "The Wall Street Journal," you know, don't make a big fuss. Let's negotiate this privately. I think that is really bad advice. Paul Whelan is an American who's been held for five years, accused of espionage, in a Russian cell. And this quiet diplomacy stuff, I understand why it is in the interest of the State Department. I don't think it's in the interests of the prisoners. I hope that they speak up, raise this issue and also, you know, shame Russia and make it clear that business investors aren't going to want to go to Moscow. We have to raise the price of hostage taking.


LEMON: Nicholas Kristof, always a pleasure. COLLINS: Yes.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

LEMON: Thanks for coming in and talking about the breaking news. We appreciate it.

COLLINS: Yes, such an important topic. And we'll be tracking those updates and keeping everyone updated.

Also this morning, we have been asking all morning, how much do you tip on everything from a cup of coffee to food delivery? We'll see how you responded. Harry Enten has crunched the data.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh!

COLLINS: You know, it was interesting how -



COLLINS: OK, we've all been there. You're ordering your morning coffee. You hand over your credit card, use Apple Pay. The employee then flips the tablet over and on the screen you have some tip options. Before you know it, you're tipping $1 for a $5 coffee, maybe more than that. If you're unsure what to do, you are not alone. Thanks to the rise of the digital tip jar, more stores are now giving you the option to tip employees, and Americans feel overwhelmed.

Our CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten has been looking at this.

People do feel confused because when you have the cash, some change, you just put whatever in there. Now it's like, what's the right proportion?

LEMON: But it always starts at like a dollar and -


LEMON: You know? And, yes, whatever (ph).

ENTEN: Or 20 percent, 25 percent, 30 percent, right?

LEMON: Twenty, 30 percent, yes.

ENTEN: You know, it already starts at a height tip.

Look, this morning's number is five because Americans who tip all the time, it's down 5 percent in 2022 versus 2019 across six categories. So, I think there's this question, right, is there almost this tipping overload? And I have questions for you guys. You know, we look at the polling, right, tip all the time for in dining servers, hairstylist/barber, food delivery, taxi/rideshare, coffee baristas, food takeout. I don't think it's a -

LEMON: Those are all down?

ENTEN: These are all down.

COLLINS: They're down 73 percent?


ENTEN: No, it's - no, it's at 73 percent.


LEMON: Oh, OK. Got it.

ENTEN: It's down from the prior year.

LEMON: All right. All right.

ENTEN: But most -

COLLINS: I was going to have a talking to with some people.

LEMON: I know.

ENTEN: That would be - that would be quite the thing, right?

But most of these categories are down. The only one that's up is the hairstyle - hairstylist/barber. But again, this is -- most of these stuff are down. And I think the real question is, you know, is this down because there's sort of a tipping overload, right? Like, asking the tip on an iPad for a $6.50 latte, right, because pre this, and most of us - or a lot of us pay with this now, you know, the tip jar and the bill were separate for places like coffee and fast food. Now they're together electronically. Is this causing burnout I think is the question.

LEMON: Well, here's the thing. I don't even carry -- I shouldn't say, I rarely carry a wallet anymore, so usually it's just on the phone, right?


LEMON: You don't even have to carry your credit card anymore.

But here's a -- I think the barber thing, a hairstyle, it's up because people do the Venmo thing now and you can tip on that. You don't have to carry the cash to tip your hair person.

ENTEN: What do you think we should be -- we should be tipping on, I guess?

LEMON: I think you should tip on everything, actually. I'm a - I'm a chronic over tipper and I - Kaitlan, you are too, right?


COLLINS: If you've ever worked a job where you work off tips, you are a much better tipper, I think, than anyone else. And I have definitely been there before. So -

ENTEN: Yes. I would just say, we got all these responses here. A few of them on the screen. You know, I think there are a lot of interesting stuff here. But most people, at least that chimed in, said they basically tip on everything. Not much of a surprise. I don't think you'd admit if you didn't tip.

LEMON: Minimum is 20 percent for me. I don't know if that's -- but that's a minimum, even on a food delivery.


LEMON: Yes, or even on a takeout I still do -

ENTEN: You're - you're a - you're a good tipper, Don. I appreciate it.

LEMON: But, yes, you're right, if you ever worked in that industry, you know.

COLLINS: You know to tip.

LEMON: Yes. Yes.

COLLINS: All right, thanks, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right, and we have new developments that we've been tracking all morning here. The arrest of "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, he has now been formally arrested on an espionage charge. He does not admit guilt. That is according to a Russian state news agency. His case has reportedly been marked top secret. His attorney was not even allowed in the courtroom just moments ago. The court's press service does say he will be under arrest for one month and 29 days. That would put that until May 29th. We are tracking all the latest developments. More on the breaking news right after this.