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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

COVID Cases Going Up As The U.S. Heads Into Thanksgiving; U.S. Mulls Sending Weapons To Ukraine As Russia Builds Forces; Air Travel Rivaling Pre-Pandemic Levels Ahead Of Holiday Season. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Tuesday morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

PAULA REID, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Paula Reid. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

ROMANS: Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

The driver of that SUV that plowed into the Waukesha, Wisconsin Christmas parade on Sunday killing five and injuring dozens will make his first appearance in court this afternoon. Prosecutors say Darrell Brooks was released from jail on a domestic abuse charge less than two weeks on an abnormally bail of just $1,000.

REID: And the jury in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial is expected to begin deliberations today, but prosecutors will first present a rebuttal to the defense's closing argument.

ROMANS: Day three of jury deliberations in the Unite the Right civil trial begin today in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jurors on Monday asked whether they have to be unanimous for some of the charges if they are not on others.

REID: The Justice Department will pay almost $120 million to Parkland, Florida shooting victims. Family members of victims filed the suit against the FBI after it failed to act on tips warning about the shooter before he killed 17 people.

ROMANS: Trump-endorsed Republican Sean Parnell is suspending his campaign for the Senate in Pennsylvania. His estranged wife accuses Parnell of abuse and just won primary custody of their three children.

REID: A holiday message from the FBI and government cybersecurity agency -- beware of ransomware and other cyberattacks. The Feds say the holiday season is often when malicious actors try to disrupt critical networks.

ROMANS: Tiffany unveiling its most expensive piece of jewelry ever. The World's Fair necklace is inspired by a Tiffany piece made in 19 -- made for the 1939 World's Fair. It has 180 carats of diamonds. It's set in platinum with an 80-carat oval flawless diamond in the center. The estimated value between -- oh, $20 million and $30 million.

REID: LeBron James suspended for the first time in his career. The Lakers star hit with a one-game suspension for an altercation that left the Pistons' Isaiah Stewart with a bloody face. LeBron will have to miss a marquee matchup. More ahead in the Bleacher Report.

ROMANS: All right. As we head into Thanksgiving, COVID resurgence is hitting American homes. The daily case rate in the U.S. is about half of what it was at this time last year, but the current pace, about 95,000 new COVID cases each day. It is up 16 percent from just a week ago.

There are some big spikes in the Upper Midwest -- the highest numbers in Michigan where the number of people in the hospital with COVID is nearly as high as it's been the entire pandemic.

REID: Now, the largest group of doctors in the U.S. warns halting the Biden vaccine mandate for private businesses will cause severe and irreparable harm.

The American Medical Association says COVID poses, quote, "grave danger to the public, and the transmission of the virus in the workplace has played a major role in spreading it."


JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Stepping back, there's no question that we are headed into a very different Thanksgiving compared to last year. Continued progress requires everyone doing their part. So, if you're unvaccinated or eligible for a booster, please go get your shot.


ROMANS: In Upstate New York, Erie County, which includes Buffalo -- it has reinstated the mask mandate for public places. COVID cases there have doubled in the past month.

And with children finally eligible for the vaccine, a stark reminder they are not immune from COVID. With more kids in school in cold- weather states, cases are up 32 percent from just two weeks ago.

The Centers for Disease Control has just added Germany and Denmark to its list of very high-risk travel destinations. It's just the latest sign of how efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus are running into roadblocks throughout Europe.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is live for us outside a vaccination center in Austria, which remains under full lockdown there in Austria. Hi, there.


We are outside the country's largest vaccination center here and I can tell you the country might be under lockdown but this is about the busiest place you can find in Vienna. There's been a huge rush of people coming here to get vaccinated.

We've been speaking to the operating manager here who tells us they are seeing 10 times -- 10 times as many people than they did just a couple of weeks ago. And what officials are particularly excited about is that many of them are the unvaccinated -- those who have refused to get their shot so far that are finally coming forward to get immunized. And again, the officials say that this is because of the country's restrictions that specifically target the unvaccinated.

There are now a plethora of rules across Austria that make life very difficult if you're not immunized. It's hard to get into a restaurant, a bar. And most importantly, the chancellor has said those who are not vaccinated will remain under lockdown essentially indefinitely.


And, of course, there is a vaccine mandate that will go into place on February first, so that means stiff fines if you continue to refuse after that date to get your shots.

It really shows how fed up European leaders are with this movement -- this class of people that authorities here are say -- say are motivated by populist sentiment, by the far-right, by misinformation and fake news to continue to refuse this vaccine. And you can see why they are disheartened -- why these leaders are putting these tough measures in place.

Austria, right now, is suffering due to an influx of coronavirus patients. It's recorded the highest incident rate in the last seven days.

But what's really important here Christine is, again, that vaccine mandate. This is going to be the first country to do this, so you can see European leaders will be watching this very closely as a pilot program -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Salma. Thank you so much for that.

REID: The Biden administration is considering whether to send military advisers and new equipment, including weapons, to Ukraine as Russia builds up forces near the border.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't know what President Putin's intentions are but we do know what's happened in the past. We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and then using that as an excuse to do what Russia is planning to do all along.


REID: CNN's Nic Robertson joins us live from London. All right, Nic, in listening to the secretary's remarks there, are U.S. officials preparing allies for the possibility of another Russian invasion?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, they're preparing allies for that possibility, for sure. But I think they're also preparing Putin to not make an incursion into Ukraine if that's on his mind. It's not clear what Putin is thinking.

Look, the issue that the United States might -- and CNN has gotten this information from its sources -- might provide Stinger missiles, which can take down aircraft to the Ukrainian military -- that would be a big plus for them if they came to toe to toe with the Russian military. Whether or not the United States might provide helicopters that have been purchased to be used in Afghanistan -- military helicopters -- and rather than not being able to send them to Afghanistan, now give them to the Ukrainians. Again, that would be a benefit for the Ukrainian military.

The British government is supporting Ukraine's navy. They are going to be helping them build two minesweepers, eight missile vessels, and also upgrading armaments on other Ukrainian navy vessels.

So, there is broad support for a package of measures to make Ukraine's military more robust and all this rhetoric at the moment, but is it simply that the rhetoric is designed to play on Putin's mind because if there was an incursion there could potentially be high political costs for Putin at home? He is most concerned, after everything else, about his national security and his own security -- security of his own leadership. Would he put all that on the line with an incursion into Ukraine?

So, this language potentially making it so public at the moment is really to deter Putin from using those almost 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine that have got tanks with them and other heavy military equipment against putting them inside Ukraine's territory.

REID: Nic, thank you so much for putting that all into context.

Tired of texts from your boss after work? Consider moving to Portugal. The country just made it illegal for your boss to text or email you after regular working hours. Companies with more than 10 staff could face fines if they disregard the new rule. It's a move to improve work-life balance after the pandemic expanded remote work from home.

ROMANS: I wonder how our executive producer feels about that? Not -- can I keep -- can I keep texting you when you're trying to sleep in the afternoon? He says no.

All right, we'll be right back.



ROMANS: Welcome back.

Overnight, another brazen robbery in California. LAPD says at least 20 people were involved in a burglary at Nordstrom at The Grove in Los Angeles. It's the latest in a series of these smash-and-grab coordinated thefts at pricey retailers.

California officials fighting back. Governor Gavin Newsom says State Highway Patrol officers are being deployed near major shopping areas hit by these organized theft rings.

REID: Newsom pointed to two weekend robberies; one involving dozens of thieves ransacking a Nordstrom in Walnut Creek and another targeting a Louis Vuitton and other shops around San Francisco's Union Square.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: (Audio difficulty) -- held to account. We need to investigate these crimes, we need to break up these crime rings, and we need to make an example out of these folks.


REID: There has been an uptick in similar high-profile robberies nationwide, including two caught on camera in Illinois.

ROMANS: America's airports are bustling again with passenger levels just ahead of Thanksgiving rivaling pre-pandemic numbers from 2019. So, are the airports or the airlines ready for the mad rush? The TSA says yes.

CNN's Pete Muntean has more.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine, Paula, the TSA says these numbers will look nothing like they did a year ago. And what's so interesting is that they will come just shy of where we were back in 2019 before the pandemic.

The TSA anticipates screening a total of 20 million people over the 10 days around Thanksgiving at airports across the country. The busiest day will be the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The agency insists there will not be delays at checkpoints across the country because of that new federal vaccine mandate for workers. The TSA says 93 percent of its workers have been vaccinated.


And TSA administrator David Pekoske tells me that all of this preparation is leading up to this big rush.

DAVID PEKOSKE, ADMINISTRATOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: We're ready. We've looked at passenger volume projections, we've worked with the carriers and with the airports, and collectively, we're ready for the Thanksgiving holiday. And our goal is to make it as safe and secure and as enjoyable for people as we possibly can.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Let's get back to the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That is when we saw an all-time air travel record back in 2019. The TSA screened 2.9 million people nationwide on that day. The TSA says we will come close to that number but we're unlikely to clear it -- Christine, Paula.


REID: Thanks for that, Pete.

Well, TSA promises, notwithstanding, there could still be some travel trouble this week from wind, rain, and evens now. Here is meteorologist Tyler Mauldin.


TYLER MAULDIN, AMS METEOROLOGIST (on camera): The weather map behind me is extremely busy, so let me show you the two systems at play over the next 72 hours.

System number one is the cold front that pushed offshore of the east coast yesterday. Behind it, lake-effect snow, and we could see up to six inches of lake-effect snow up here across the Great Lakes and on into the northeast.

But then, we have a series of weather makers pushing across the Northern Rockies and the Northern Plains. This system could create north of 10 inches of snow across the highest elevations, and also some extremely heavy rainfall across the coast of Oregon and Washington.

That system is on the move to the east. It's the one that's going to impact our travel on Wednesday. It's going to impact our Thanksgiving and it's also going to impact, like, Friday, too. In terms of Thanksgiving itself, trouble spots will be Seattle and then also Houston all the way up through St. Louis, on into Chicago, as well as the areas around the Great Lakes.

Christine, Paula, back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Tyler. Plan accordingly, everyone.

Actor Kevin Spacey ordered to pay producers behind the Netflix series "HOUSE OF CARDS" nearly $31 million. He was fired from the series after five seasons for alleged sexual misconduct. The ruling says Spacey repeatedly breached his contract and his behavior cost tens of millions of dollars in losses for the production company.

REID: And it took 72 years but the families of four Black men falsely accused of rape finally got some closure. The Groveland Four were just boys when 17-year-old Norma Padgett falsely accused them in Jim Crow- era 1949 without any evidence. The state of Florida posthumously cleared all four. None are still alive.


CAROL GREENLEE, DAUGHTER OF CHARLES GREENLEE: I will not hate but I will love and embrace all of those who did not know at the time that my father was a caring and loving, compassionate person that did not rape anybody.


REID: Charles Greenlee was sentenced to life in prison. Ernest Thomas escaped but was later killed after a manhunt. And Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin received the death penalty.

ROMANS: What a story.

All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world, you can see a mixed performance in Asia. Those markets are closed for the day. Europe has opened slightly lower. And on Wall Street, very narrowly mixed. Nasdaq futures leaning down about three-tenths of one percent.

U.S. home sales are on track for their best year since 2006. Sales were higher in October by a little less than one percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Inventory very low, driving prices higher and making the purchase even less affordable for first-time and lower-income buyers. The median existing-home price in October, about $354,000. That is up 13 percent from a year ago. Year-over-year price increases have gone more like 9 1/2 years -- have gone up more than 9 1/2 years -- the longest streak on record.

Attention, holiday shoppers. Target announcing it will close its stores on Thanksgiving permanently. Target CEO Brian Cornell says what began last year as a temporary pandemic measure is now the company standard. He decided to keep the policy. Workers told him they were glad they could be home on Thanksgiving.

Other chains, like Walmart and Best Buy, closed their doors last Thanksgiving and will again this year. No word on any permanent change.

A major stand against social media from a brand popular with teenagers around the world. Lush Cosmetics is planning to deactivate its Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapshot accounts. The company wants to spotlight mental health concerns.

Social media companies are under growing scrutiny. "The Wall Street Journal" recently revealed Facebook researchers found Facebook and Instagram is toxic for teenage girls.

The change for Lush starts on Black Friday when most companies will use social media to drive one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

REID: That's interesting. I feel like their products are so social media worthy --

ROMANS: I know.

REID: -- they still get other people amplifying their message and their products.


Now, the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers snap their two-game losing streak with a dominating performance against the Giants on "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL."

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. Good morning, Carolyn.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Paula. How are you?

The last time Tampa Bay lost three in a row was back in 2002, but Tom Brady was not about to let it happen on his watch.

Brady was a man on a mission under the Monday night lights controlling this one from start to finish, using both his arm and his legs. Check out the wheels here on the 44-year-old. A little scramble. In fact, he almost hurdles a defender on third down to extend the drive. This right here is the mood when you lose two in a row. That's what I'm talking about.

Later, Brady hitting Mike Evans for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Evans setting a franchise record with his 72nd touchdown catch. And he made sure to keep the ball this time around after accidentally giving away the one marking his quarterback's 600th touchdown pass to a fan earlier in the season.

But Tom Brady's night ended with more than six minutes left in regulation and over 300 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs routing New York by 20.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: I think we've got a long way to go. We're just now starting to -- you know, the seven games left. So, there's a lot of football left. Thanksgiving is coming up, which the games are bigger because there's fewer of them. And we've put ourselves into decent position but we've got to keep going.


MANNO: The Lakers are at Madison Square Garden for the only time this season tonight but they will be without LeBron James. For the first time in his career, the superstar has been suspended one game by the NBA for his dust-up with Detroit's Isaiah Stewart. The pair had to be held back from one another multiple times on Sunday night. Stewart picked up a 2-game suspension for escalating the situation.

The Lakers and the Pistons will meet again this Sunday in L.A.

Just one day after leaving the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women's Soccer League title game for the third straight time head coach Rory Dames has resigned. This comes after "The Washington Post" reported that players on the Red Stars had accused Dames of verbal and emotional abuse. The "Post" report alleges that he humiliated players, sometimes using personal information such as their education or relationship status when being critical.

CNN has reached out to Dames for comment.

Meanwhile, the NWSL Players Association issued a statement yesterday, which read, "This type of coaching has no place in the NWSL, youth soccer, or anywhere else. We have said it before and will say it again now: the system has failed us. Nothing short of a complete transformation of our league will suffice."

And a 1-2 matchup in women's hoops -- South Carolina and UConn. Carolina proved why they are number one. Preseason All-American Aliyah Boston scoring a game-high 22 points. But it was the team's defense that made the difference, shutting down the reigning Player of the Year Paige Bueckers and the rest of the Huskies in the fourth quarter. South Carolina allowing just three points in the final quarter in the 16-point win.

Now, these two have met four times when they've been ranked 1-2, but this is the first time that Carolina has ended up on top. A big win for them.

And another 1-2 matchup in hoops tonight, by the way, guys -- top- ranked Gonzaga and UCLA. This is a rematch of last year's Instant Classic in the men's Final Four. It should be a good one as we all look forward to some sports on this holiday week.

ROMANS: Absolutely, a lot of sports.

Hey, Carolyn, let's talk about LeBron James quickly. Did he deserve that suspension, in your view?

MANNO: In my view, yes. And I think a one-game suspension is probably on the lesser side of what it could have been, honestly, Christine. I mean, we've seen anything ranging from one to around four games for this type of contact. And it was certainly excessive, I'll say that. One game was definitely deserved and you could make the case that it probably could have been more.

But either way, he'll be back and so will Isaiah Stewart when the two teams --


MANNO: -- meet this weekend. So, it'll be exciting to watch. But I would say yes.

ROMANS: The first suspension of his career, right?

MANNO: Yes, that's right. Yes, in 19 seasons, which is pretty remarkable.

ROMANS: Yes, yes.

MANNO: But his one deserved. ROMANS: Yes.

Carolyn Manno, thank you so much.

MANNO: You bet.

REID: The finale of season 30 of "DANCING WITH THE STARS" ended with a historic win.


TYRA BANKS, HOST, "DANCING WITH THE STARS": Oh my God, Iman and Daniella.


REID: He really had some moves, if you've been watching. Former NBA player Iman Shumpert was named the ballroom champ on Monday. He's the first NBA player to make it to the finale or win the coveted mirror ball trophy. Shumpert and his partner Daniella scored 40 out of 40 for their cha-cha, foxtrot, and their freestyle dance.

ROMANS: They look really good out there. They deserve it.

REID: They look fantastic.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

REID: And I'm Paula Reid. "NEW DAY" is next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, November 23rd. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

In just a couple of hours the last word in the trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. The prosecutor will deliver a rebuttal to the closing arguments and we will bring it to you live. It is the final chance to address what was a dramatic and controversial presentation from defense lawyers that some say evoked racist images of the antebellum south.

This is what happened in closings. First, the lead prosecutor argued that if --