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Turkey Threatens To Block Finland And Sweden From Joining NATO; Florida Governor Wants To Take Over Disney World's Special District; House Panel Holds Hearing On "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 17, 2022 - 05:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And until they completely leave that facility, they are certainly not saying that this is a surrender itself of the city but very, very important symbolically.

As you can imagine Laura, we saw punishing missile strikes throughout the country overnight. Quite an uptick if you will, we had north of Kyiv. That is where, in a village just about 40 miles from the border of Belarus, the Ukrainian authorities reporting wounded as well as dead. Many, many casualties there.

And Laura, here in Lviv, we were fortunate here that there were no such casualties. But yes, we heard those alarms just after midnight. The airstrikes that came shortly afterwards -- hearing explosions -- several of them. Three of those missiles that were intercepted -- it was actually a target -- a railway infrastructure that was targeted and hit. It was just nine miles from the Polish border.

And what this really indicates here is that the Russians are trying to do two things as they escalate the fighting here. One of them is to disrupt the supply chains, but the other is to really kind of take away the Ukrainian forces. Occupy them and distract them in many different places around the country to prevent them from being deployed in the east. That is where the Russians really want to make some more headway here.

So, Laura, the Ukrainian people trying desperately to sort out what has happened overnight in all of these punishing airstrikes and at the same time, realizing that there are just a few that are holding on to that port city -- Laura.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Suzanne. Thank you for your reporting. Appreciate you being there for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Turkey is threatening to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO. President Recep Erdogan says there is no reason for the two Scandinavian countries to send delegations to Turkey to change his mind.

Jomana Karadsheh tracking the latest developments live from Istanbul. So, Jomana, do we know what the reason is for Erdogan's opposition here? And again, this is pretty historic -- Finland and Sweden wanting to join the NATO alliance. What is Erdogan's opposition?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Christine, as you and I have discussed over the years, President Erdogan is no stranger really to this sort of fiery rhetoric.

Last night, again repeating his threats to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, repeating the same accusations we've heard from him and Turkish officials that these two countries are hosting and harboring terrorist organizations, as Turkish officials say. That is mostly referring to the PKK -- that separatist Kurdish militant group that is considered a terrorist organization not just by Turkey but also the U.S. and the EU.

And he also wanted to stress another point that we've heard from Turkish officials and that he says he cannot and will not allow countries that are sanctioned in his own country to be members of the alliance. He's, here, referring to sanctions -- an arms embargo that was put in place by these Nordic countries and Turkey and its military industries back in 2019 after Turkey carried out that military incursion into northeastern Syria.

And what Turkish officials are saying is that look, NATO is a defense alliance. This is not just any international organization that countries join. And so, allies need to defend each other and support each other, and how can they do that when they are sanctioning each other?

But despite these strong words from President Erdogan that some believe might be the president trying to up the ante before expected negotiations over these issues, his officials have made clear over the weekend that basically, they are -- this is not a firm no. That this is not really a guaranteed veto, but it is basically they want their security guarantees and their security concerns addressed here, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jomana. Keep us posted of any changes. Thank you.

JARRETT: President Biden restoring the U.S. military presence in Somalia in an effort to counter the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. The move reverses former President Trump's abrupt withdrawal of all U.S. troops from that country.

CNN's David McKenzie is live in Johannesburg with more on this story. David, good morning. How many troops is the president expected to deploy?


This is a significant development. The Pentagon says less than 500 troops will be on the ground in Somalia. And this is redeployment. A senior administration official telling CNN that the order by President Trump at the last minute to withdraw those troops was, quote, "irrational."

What you've had over the last many months are U.S. special operation forces shuttling back and forth from neighboring countries because of that order, enter Somalia, and then back again. The Pentagon says that this was expensive and potentially dangerous, so they're certainly welcoming from the military side President Biden signing this order allowing troops to be based out of Somalia.


The Al-Shabaab group -- militant group linked with al Qaeda has gained strength in recent months. It's a long-running fight against that group. And U.S. officials have said that not only in Somalia but outside of that country civilians, including Americans, are at risk of attacks. So they believe it's important to bolster the U.S. presence again in Somalia though they made pains to say that this is not any direct action that forces will be taking.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Our forces are not now nor will they be directly engaged in combat operations. The purpose here is to enable a more effective fight against Al-Shabaab by local forces, which -- and Al-Shabaab has increased and their strength imposes a heightened threat.


MCKENZIE: So it's a training, advising, and equipping mission as they call it. The long-term prospects though are unclear. There's been instability in Somalia for at least 30 years -- Laura, Christine.

JARRETT: All right, David McKenzie live in Johannesburg for us. Thank you, David.

ROMANS: All right, Mickey Mouse culture war. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis revealing some of his future plans for Disney World.

JARRETT: I like that. Mickey Mouse culture war.

And UFOs over America. A once crazy concept getting serious attention on Capitol Hill today.



ROMANS: New developments in Florida -- Gov. Ron DeSantis' feud with the happiest place on Earth. The governor saying the state may take control of the special district that has acted as local government for Disney's Orlando area theme parks for half a century.

Disney was stripped of its governing powers last month -- a move many saw as retaliation for Disney's opposition to Florida's Don't Say Gay law. Ironically, many people who worked inside of Disney thought it was too late and too weak -- that opposition. So Disney getting it from both sides here.

CNN's Steve Contorno is live in St. Petersburg, Florida. Steve, what is -- what is the governor -- Gov. Ron DeSantis proposing now? STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Christine, Gov. DeSantis wants to put the state in charge of the government that oversees Disney, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Now, this district has been overseeing Disney since 1967, providing services like a fire department, utilities, orchestrating land-use policies and taxes. All of that would go under the control of the state if Gov. DeSantis gets his way.

Now, this is coming in response to criticism that DeSantis and Florida lawmakers acted in haste and without a plan when they voted last month to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District. There is concern from local officials that the debt from Reedy Creek -- $1 billion -- could fall on local taxpayers. DeSantis says that would not happen if the state takes over. The state would be able to assume those responsibilities and he promises that there will be no tax increase for locals or for Floridians.

But we still don't have a lot of details of what exactly this plan looks like. We got just a glimpse of it yesterday from the governor. The dissolvement of Reedy Creek doesn't take place until June of next year. And Gov. DeSantis said yesterday he wants to wait until after the November elections so he can work with the new incoming lawmakers on the best path forward, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. It sounds like a lot of work to do to unwind that and a promise from the governor it will not raise taxes for Floridians. We'll see -- have to see in the details if that's a promise he can keep.

Thank you so much, Steve.

JARRETT: All right, from Mickey Mouse to alien spaceships. No longer just the curiosity of people in tinfoil hats, the issue is actually getting an airing on Capitol Hill today. A House panel will hold the first public hearing in over 50 years on, you guessed it, UFOs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing, dude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not an (INAUDIBLE), is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing. It's rotating.


JARRETT: This, almost a year after a U.S. intelligence report examined 144 reports of so-called unidentified aerial phenomena since 2004, and could only explain one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not tinfoil hats and conversations of Elvis being on the Mothership. This is a very serious national security issue. Something is in our skies. It has been there for quite some time and we're just now having the conversation publicly about it.


JARRETT: OK, let's bring in Avi Loeb, professor of science at Harvard. Professor, so nice to have you for this important topic of the day. What exactly are we going to hear today? Is this a serious national security issue?

AVI LOEB, PROFESSOR OF SCIENCE AT HARVARD (via Skype): Well, we don't know because the government is unable to identify the nature of these objects.

And there are two possibilities. Either they are a national security threat -- we just cannot figure out some technologies that our adversaries possess -- or it's a matter of science. We are dealing with something that came from outside of this earth.

ROMANS: I know that maybe 50 years ago there were hearings in Congress where a scientist just said this was swamp gases or something. At the time, that was seen as such a flippant remark --

JARRETT: Dismissed it -- right.

ROMANS: -- right? But we're really taking a serious look at what this is.

Some of these images -- I mean, these are fast-moving vehicles, objects with no propulsion it looks like. I mean, no -- can't identify how they're moving.

You write in an essay that the biggest question you want answered is can we get the highest quality data to scientists who will analyze it methodically and quantitatively. Explain that.


LOEB: That's right. So, what we need is high-quality data. That's the way science is guided. And at the moment, the government doesn't release the classified information -- the data that it has.

The sky is not classified so in principle, we are initiating the Galileo Project -- the time leading (ph) -- which aims to collect new data and see if there are any objects that are not natural or human- made in the sky.

But it would be nice if the government would share the data that is possesses with scientists so that we can analyze it because that's the only way by which we can figure out what the nature of these objects is.

JARRETT: As Christine said, this is the first public hearing on UFOs in over 50 years. Why, Professor, is now a good time to do all of this?

LOEB: Well, from a scientist's point of view it's a very good time because we have much better instruments right now. In fact, we are assembling the first telescope system on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory to do just that -- to monitor the sky and see if there are any objects that are unusual.

And then, I think this is not a philosophical question; it's a question that can be answered by getting high-resolution images and figuring out what these objects are. We should get rid of the term "unidentified" from our lexicon. The government is interested in knowing what these objects are. The public wants to know. Let's clear up the fog and move on.

ROMANS: Yes, what's the range of possibilities here? It's our adversaries? Maybe our allies? It's technology that they have that we can't identify? It's creatures from outer space?

LOEB: Well --

ROMANS: Other life forms? What?

LOEB: The first possibility is that the instruments are malfunctioning.



LOEB: Obviously, you have to rule that out.

But then, in terms of the objects, there are two possibilities. Either it's a natural phenomena. You have some unusual birds or a meteor, or some lightning, or it's human-made.

And we pretty much know what our adversaries have. We know the capabilities of human-made technologies and the claim in the report is that you cannot explain these objects. And otherwise, it would appear as a national security breach. I mean, that somehow our intelligence agencies are unable to figure out what the other nations develop. And I wouldn't imagine that they would come out with such a statement admitting that they can't figure out our adversaries.

So my guess is if it's real and it's not natural, then it's something else. You know, the way Sherlock Holmes argued, whatever remains must be the truth. And to figure out what it is we need to get better data, and that's the way science is done. And we need to get rid of the stigma and ridicule --


LOEB: -- that they had in past decades on this subject and just address it scientifically.

ROMANS: It doesn't need to be behind closed doors. Let's let the scientists really look at it and --

JARRETT: Pair it all out.

ROMANS: -- figure it out. Avi Loeb, Harvard science professor, thank you for joining us this morning -- fascinating.

LOEB: My pleasure. Thank you.

JARRETT: Thanks, Professor.

All right, and now to this. Amber Heard returns to the witness stand this morning for more cross-examination by ex-husband Johnny Depp's lawyers in that closely-watched defamation trial.

In court Monday, Heard testified about the end of their brief violent marriage. She said Depp's drug use and alleged physical abuse led her to file for divorce back in 2016.


AMBER HEARD, ACTRESS: It was falling apart. I knew I had -- I knew I had to leave him. I knew I wouldn't -- I knew I wouldn't survive it if I didn't.

So I made the decision to file for divorce. It was hard because I loved Johnny so much. I loved him so much.


JARRETT: Heard also testified that her role in the "Aquaman" movie sequel was cut back after Depp's lawyer called her abuse claims a hoax. Now, that's important because Depp is accusing her, remember, of defaming him in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. She didn't name him but she describe herself as a survivor of domestic abuse. She has filed a counterclaim saying that he defamed her by the lawyer calling it a hoax.

ROMANS: A lot of issues there.

All right. Up next, what President Biden could say to the city of Buffalo when he visits just hours from now.

JARRETT: But first, new signs that Elon Musk may back off his Twitter takeover deal.



ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Tuesday morning.

Looking at markets around the world, you can see Asian shares are popping there. They are closed now for the day. London has opened higher and so has Paris and Frankfurt. So, Europe leaning higher.

And on Wall Street, stock index futures look strong this morning. We'll see if it holds. You know, U.S. markets closed mixed Monday. Traders reckoning,

frankly, with six weeks of major losses and the possibility of a -- of a recession -- growing possibility, though not a certainty.

Energy stocks led the gains with Occidental Petroleum up nearly 6%; NRG up 4.2%. Spirit Airlines flew up 13% after JetBlue announced an offer to buy Spirit for $30 a share.

All right. That energy stock rally, by the way, because oil prices are surging again, rising above $114 a barrel -- a two-month high, almost, with worries it could go higher. COVID lockdowns in China have sapped demand for energy in recent weeks keeping a lid on oil's gains. Easing those lockdowns could mean higher oil prices ahead. As you all know, retail prices for gasoline and now diesel fuel are at or near record highs.


A new hitch in Elon Musk's proposed $44 billion purchase of Twitter. Musk says he will not move ahead until he has more clarity on how many Twitter accounts are fake. Twitter estimated in a filing earlier this month that the number of spam and bot accounts was under 5%. But Musk says in a tweet at least 20% of accounts are bogus and the figure could be much higher. And he accuses Twitter of refusing to show proof its estimate is right.

Twitter shares slipped 2.2% in pre-market trading.

He also made some comments at a conference in Miami yesterday that are getting a lot of attention.

All right. Starbucks is offering to cover travel expenses for workers seeking abortions or gender-affirming procedures that are not available within 100 miles of their homes. Dependents of employees who use the Starbucks healthcare plan are also eligible for this Starbucks benefit.

A company executive says, "Regardless of what the Supreme Court ends up deciding, we will always ensure our partners have access to quality healthcare."

Amazon, Tesla, and Citigroup are among the large corporations to commit to covering travel expenses for abortion services. Other companies like Walmart and Facebook have remained silent on this issue.

JARRETT: And we're going to talk about that just ahead --

ROMANS: That's right.


All right. Tiger Woods returns to action this week for his first tournament since the Masters. Andy Scholes has it all covered in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So the second major of the season, the PGA Championship, starts on Thursday. And Tiger says he's feeling a lot stronger than he was at the Masters last month. Tiger played a back nine practice round at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa yesterday. It's going to be just his second tournament since returning from his severe leg injury.

Now, Tiger made the cut at the Masters but battled through pain simply to walk 72 holes, calling the effort to finish four rounds among his greatest feats.

Now, he's not one of the favorites this week but none of his peers would be surprised if he's in contention.


TALOR GOOCH, WORLD NO. 35 GOLFER: I think if there's ever a question if Tiger can contend, we can all just kind of chuckle at that. Never is he going to be in a field where he can't contend. He might not have as good of odds in some places but I think as long as he's in the field, if he ever gets -- if he ever gets it slotted, no matter how old he is, no matter what's going on, he's always going to have a chance. I mean, it's Tiger Woods.


SCHOLES: Yes, Tiger is very familiar with this course. He won his fourth and most recent PGA Championship at Southern Hills back in 2007. Tiger is set to meet with the media later this afternoon.

All right, the NBA Conference Finals begin tonight with the Heat hosting the Celtics in the East. Then tomorrow night it's the Warriors and Mavs in the Western Conference Finals. Miami and Boston meeting the Conference Finals for the second time in three years. The Heat beat the Celtics in the bubble back in 2020. And despite having the best record in the East, Miami is the underdog in this series and their star, Jimmy Butler, likes it that way.


JIMMY BUTLER, MIAMI HEAT FORWARD: And what I love about this team the most is ain't nobody paying attention to who anybody else picks because we know that we can win. Those are the guys that I want to go to war with. We're staying here. We say what the coaches say and we're saying what our organization say. We're going to fight and we're going to come out on top.


SCHOLES: All right. And finally, we have another candidate for a worst first pitch ever. That was music producer and deejay Steve Aoki sailing one way over the plate onto the netting at the Red Sox game last night. I mean, she just launched that ball.

He tweeted afterwards, "I think I'll stick to throwing cakes," which is something he does to his fans during shows. But, I mean, guys -- I mean, I guess at least he got it to the plate.

He just went way, way over the plate.

ROMANS: You know, there are so many good examples of people who just can't throw a football -- a football? A baseball across the plate.

JARRETT: And she talks about me and sports. Look at this one.

ROMANS: I just mean -- oh my gosh.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right, guys. Have a good morning.

ROMANS: We should get out there sometime. OK, we're going to -- Andy, we're going to try to do it and we'll show you how badly our --

JARRETT: Speak for yourself.

SCHOLES: Good luck.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: I meant to say baseball. I knew it was baseball.

JARRETT: Sure. "NEW DAY" starts right now.