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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

S. Korea: U.S. Navy Moves Carrier Strike Group Near North Korea; Hurricane Ian Death Toll Climbs to 125; 22 Children Among At Least 34 Dead in Thailand Nursery Shooting; OPEC+ to Cut Oil Production, Defying U.S. Pressure. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 06, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, October 6th. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin with escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula. The U.S. Navy now moving an aircraft carrier strike group into the waters off the Korean peninsula. That's according to South Korean security officials. It's in response to a series of North Korean missile launches over the past two weeks.

The most recent two short range ballistic missiles launched last night just hours after this warning from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've called on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in a sustained and substantive dialogue. This is something we've proposed going back many months. If they continue going down this road, it will only increase the condemnation, increase the isolation, increase the steps that are taken in response to their actions.


ROMANS: Let's go live to CNN's Paula Hancocks in South Korea for us.

And, Paula, another missile launch overnight. What do we know about this strike group being moved into the waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the information we are getting at this point is coming from the joint chiefs of staff here in South Korea. They say that the USS Ronald Regan is back in Korean waters and has been carrying out naval drills with the South Korean and Japanese destroyer this afternoon, this Thursday.

Now it was just last week when there were naval drills which angered Pyongyang and they are now back in the waters just up the east coast of Korea in response to those missile launches by North Korea. Now, what they're saying these particular drills are for is to detect, track and intercept missiles so that they're practicing sharing target information when they get information about a potential launch.

Now, we have also had a response from North Korea this Thursday. We haven't heard from them for some time not admitting to the missile launches to its own people still. But they did say from the foreign ministry through the state-run media, the DPRK, the official name for North Korea, is watching the U.S. posing a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity by redeploying the U.S. carrier task force in the waters off of South Korea. This is the explanation why it's carrying out so many launches. 6 missile launches in 12 days.

They are blaming the United States saying it's the joint drills the reason for that. Now, we did hear a sound bite from Secretary Blinken. North Korea is becoming more isolated. What we saw at the United Nations Security Council that that might not be the case. We are seeing once again Russia and China are not blaming North Korea for these launches.

In fact, blaming the United States saying it is the U.S. that is increasing the tensions in the region. So certainly Pyongyang will be emboldened by that.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right. Thank you so much for that, Paula. Keep us posted.

To Florida now. At least 125 deaths are being linked to Hurricane Ian and that number could climb today when they begin secondary searches of damaged and destroyed homes on Sanibel Island.

Sanibel's city managers says his teams will enter any house there if there's reason to believe someone inside needs help.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has the latest.


TONI TABOR, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: We just thought -- we just thought everything would be lost.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is West Gulf Drive, it's one of the main streets here on Sanibel Island. It's one of the parts that was the worst-hit area. And you can tell, look behind me, this is now a street that is lined with debris. You can see straight into homes and see personal belongings everywhere. Look over here. You also have part of a roof that is sitting on the side of the street.

But to make the point of exactly how powerful this storm was, take a look at this home.


Residents tell me that this was actually across the street. Now you can see straight in what was once a family room, a kitchen no longer here. The equipment and refrigerator now partially out the door and not much left to be salvaged.

ANDY GARCIA, OWNER, SANIBEL HOME CONCIERGE: There is already mildew growing.

SANTIAGO: Andy Garcia is a property manager on the island. He's had to deliver bad news to families who couldn't be here to check on their own homes.

GARCIA: I mean, it's totally devastating. To hear them on the other end of the phone and just gasping for air, you're telling them their home is destroyed. It's totally heart-wrenching for me.

SANTIAGO: And heart-wrenching for the owners who lost everything.

STEVE SCHULTZ, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: Everything's pretty much ruined inside.

JOE SCHULZ, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: Everything including dressers, beds, everything, ruined. It's all in our front yard.

SANTIAGO: Steve and Lori Schulz are leaving the island for the first time since Ian hit.

LORI SCHULZ, SANIBEL ISLAND RESIDENT: Hopefully, we're coming back to a house. Everybody works together. Everybody cares about each other. We'll be back.


SANTIAGO (on camera): A lot of the people we talked to are waiting for some sort of temporary fix to the Sanibel causeway. Something Governor Ron DeSantis said is important to them. They need to move people and supplies in order to salvage anything they can from these homes before it's too late and anyone is forced to tear down the homes completely.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Sanibel Islands, Florida.

ROMANS: The pictures there in Sanibel Island, just unbelievable. President Biden in Florida for a firsthand look at that destruction caused by Hurricane Ian.

Mr. Biden and the first lady toured the ravaged communities around Fort Myers by helicopter.

Then they were greeted by governor Ron DeSantis and his wife Casey. The governor and the president spoke about coming together to help the hurricane's victims rebuild their shattered lives and communities.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I think one of the things that you're seeing in this response, we are cutting through the bureaucracy. We are cutting through the red tape, and that's from local government, state government all the way up to the president. So we appreciate the team effort. JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we have one job and

only one job, and that's to make sure the people of Florida get everything that they need to fully, thoroughly recover.


ROMANS: The president repeatedly noted this is the United States of America, we're in this together.

All right. The U.S. intelligence community believes that august car bombing that killed the daughter of a prominent Russian political figure near Moscow was authorized by elements within the Ukrainian government.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has the latest from Kyiv.

Fred, what are you learning?


Well, potentially very interesting development that is taking place. Those sources within the U.S. intelligence community saying they believe that at least parts of the Ukrainian government authorized this. They say the U.S. had no prior knowledge of the plot. They also say it's not clear whether or not Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, had any prior knowledge or signed off on the plot himself.

But, certainly, it's something that could potentially shed some light on to what exactly happened there. This happened on August 20th when Darya Dugina, we could see the aftermath right there, her car blew up after a bomb that was apparently placed under it.

And the Russians are very quick to come out and blamed the Ukrainian intelligence services. They put out videos of a potential suspect. They named the potential suspect. They say she had come in from Russian occupied parts of Ukraine.

The Ukrainians at the time, I think about a day after the event, they came out themselves and said they had absolutely nothing to do with it. They said, look, Ukraine is not a terrorist state, they put it, and they denied having anything to do with any of it.

What we've done so far is we've obviously asked for reactions from the Ukrainian side. So far, we've not heard anything. Interestingly, we're keeping an eye on Russian state media. There really isn't much in the way of reaction there. They're talking about the story but Russian officials haven't commented on it as far as we know just yet.

But potentially this is a big development in that case and the U.S., of course, for a very long time has said it's been a bit frustrated about the fact they don't have operational insight in some of the things the Ukrainians are doing on the battlefield with the Ukrainian services as well. So, certainly, potentially pretty interesting development there and one that does shed light on an event that really did cause a lot of uproar in Russia. I was at Darya Dugina's memorial event. And I can tell you, there were

a lot of people there who were very, very angry at that point in time.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for that.

All right. Nine minutes past the hour. The case against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones expected to go to the jury today. Jones declined to take the stand in his own defense. On Wednesday, he told reporter he is boycotting the trial, calling it a fraud.

The six-member jury is expected to begin deliberating after closing arguments. No witnesses were called for Jones defense as it tries to limit the damages he must pay for calling the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School a hoax.


OPEC now slashing oil production. What could that do to gas prices?

Plus, CNN on the ground in southern Ukraine where Russian forces were just driven out.

And the truth about crime in America. Turns out we're not getting the full picture.


ROMANS: We are following breaking news. Authorities in Thailand say at least 34 people are dead including 22 children after a mass shooting at a child care center.

CNN' Selina Wang live in Tokyo with more.

Selina, you're covering this story for us. What else do we know?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned from authorities that the soot shooter is a 34-year-old police officer dismissed from duty last year. He was involved in narcotics allegedly. We have learned from authorities that he opened fire at this nursery, at this child care center while the children were sleeping.


Now, this part of Thailand where this happened in northeastern Thailand, our team on the ground said it is a peaceful, quiet area not known for violence.

We've learned from the authorities that the shooter took his own life as well as the life of his family, of his wife and his child. We do not know if the shooter and his family is -- shooter and his family is included in the death toll. That's at least 34 people dead including 22 children.

Now the prime minister had put out his condolences over this tragedy. There is a wanted poster authorities had put out before the man took his own life. Now, some context here is that gun ownership in Thailand is relatively high compared to other places in Southeast Asia, but the official metrics, they do not include the high numbers of illegal weapons.

Mass shootings are also rare in Thailand. However, there was a major mass shooting in 2020 that saw a rampage shooting happen in a military site as well as in a mall.

ROMANS: All right. Selina, thank you so much for that. Keep us posted. Again, just breaking knew details are developing.

All right. A win for Russia and potentially higher gas prices for American consumers. The OPEC plus alliance of oil producing countries announcing deep cuts in production to boost prices for their members including Russia and Saudi Arabia. This comes despite a full-court press by the White House.

We get more from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Growing concerns about the future of gas prices in the U.S. after OPEC plus, a cartel of some of the world's biggest oil producers, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, decided to cut oil production more than expected by 2 million barrels a day and despite a fury of last-minute pressure by the White House. Motorists here in northern Virginia exasperated that they could take yet another hit at the pump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is an inconvenience. It's a lot of money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just affecting me, it affects the whole world.

TODD: How exactly does a 2 million barrel a day cut in production makes gas prices go up?

STEPHEN SCHORK, OIL ANALYST, CO-FOUNDER, THE SCHORK REPORT: Less supply of crude oil equals less supply of gasoline. Less supply of gasoline at current demand levels equals higher prices.

TODD: But analyst Steven Schork says he doesn't think it means it will get to the prices it was before. Why?

SCHORK: If the economy continues to falter or fall off a cliff as some analysts on Wall Street are now saying, that will lead to a significant decline in demand. We'll just see oil prices, regardless of what OPEC is saying, fall.

TODD: Still, Schork says, we could see an increase in prices by the end of this month, just in time for midterm elections, the worst possible timing for President Biden whose team said they were disappointed in OPEC calling it shortsighted.

The president himself saying I am concerned. It is unnecessary.

This comes just three months after the president visited Saudi Arabia, the biggest player in OPEC. Despite the alleged involvement of its leader, Mohamed bin Salman, in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an accusation bin Salman denies, Biden fist-bumped MBS and asked him to increase oil production. Instead, Saudi Arabia did the opposite.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: In the end now, in October, we're seeing he was not able through that trip or through a months' long lobbying campaign of other White House officials to prevent this outcome.

TODD: The move is also seen as a win for Vladimir Putin boosting the price of Russian oil as the Kremlin looks for ways to fund its Ukrainian war effort. In the U.S., average gas prices soared to a high of $5.02 in June, and then fell to $3.64 in September, but have ticked back up to $3.82 in the weeks since.

Democrats now again concerned gas prices could hurt them at the polls.

TALEV: With gas prices every time you fill up and you are thinking about it, there's only so much control any American president has over gas prices but voters blame the people in charge when gas prices go higher.


TODD (on camera): And there's more pressure on the Biden administration to punish Saudi Arabia for this. Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna calling on the White House to retaliate by cutting off the kingdom's aviation parts supplies and preventing defense contractors from selling to them. Unclear if the White House will do any of that, but the administration is now leaving the door open from releasing more supply from America's strategic petroleum reserves to ease prices.

Brian Todd, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.

ROMANS: All right. Brian, thank you so much for that.

The Biden administration is preparing to scale back sanctions on Venezuela so Chevron can continue pumping there. It would clear the way of potential U.S. and European markets to oil exports from Venezuela. In exchange, the Maduro regime would continue talks about free and fair presidential elections in 2024. This proposed deal is still not finalized.

All right. Just ahead, how do we measure crime in America? The answer may surprise you.

Plus, CNN on the ground in a newly liberated region of southern Ukraine.



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: This road lined with Russian bodies, abandoned Russian positions. It's clear people left here in a hurry.



ROMANS: All right. More gains reported in Ukraine's counter offensive. Russian soldiers seemingly in a rush to flee from southern Ukraine.

Look, leaving the newly liberated territory behind them littered with the bodies of Putin's troops.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live right now in Ukraine for us.

What are you seeing, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yeah, during a trip along the river, the Dnipro River on the west bank of which there are potentially thousands of Russian troops, not in a particularly good position, potentially not as well connected as they'd like with the rest of Russia's occupying force.


Along that river bank we saw the scale of Ukrainian advances in just the last two or three days since the weekend through positions which we saw months ago were locked in stalemate. Absolutely staggering momentum.


WALSH (voice-over): We don't leave our own behind, a Russian war slogan you hear less these days, especially along the road south by the Dnieper River where the Russians seem to be collapsing since the weekend on yet a third front.

The pace of Ukraine's advance, you can feel on the road here. And it's hour by hour that they move forward, these road lined with Russian bodies, abandoned Russian positions. It's clear people left here in a hurry.

In just the last three days, they have swept along the west bank of the river through Russian positions. The shallow, shabby foxholes of an army with almost nothing at hand. Even what little they had was abandoned, especially this tank, a model that first came into service 60 years ago when Vladimir Putin was nine.

Here, the village of Mykolaevka (ph), right on the river, is getting cellphone service for first time in six months and aid. Shells slammed into here 90 minutes ago from the Russians still across the water. It's the price of their freedom.

The Russians would check on us, she says, try to make us vote in the referendum. But we didn't. Still, we survived. We old people always have food supplies.

Outside the village are more of the short-lived occupation, left in the tree line with a sleeping mat and shells.

In nearby Lyubimovka (ph), there was heavy fighting Saturday. And then Sunday, the Russians just vanished. Gratitude for aid and liberation going spare to almost anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I cry because two of mine are fighting too. I am crying as I am happy you are here.

WALSH: Smiles that it is over and shock at how fast.

It was very scary, we were afraid, she says. Hiding. They were bombing, robbing. We survived. They ran. The rain came. And they ran.

Signs all around of how their unwanted guests just did not know what to do when they got here. All have food or beds. They filled that gap with cruelty.

Andrei (ph) had a generator and would charge locals' phones. So, the Russians decided he was Ukrainian informer and beat him.

They brought me from here and they put a hood on my head and taped it up, he says. We walked a few steps up and down.

They beat him so badly, his arms turned blue from defending his head, still there months later.

Stalemate had turned this huge expanse up for months. Now, it's broken, as has the fear of the Kremlin's army here, bereaved, abandoned, filthy and vanishing down the road.


WALSH (on camera): Now yet again there's a fundamental decision point for Russian officials about what they do with their presence on the left side of that river. It is under continual Ukrainian pressure. It is poorly supplied and probably pretty poorly managed at this point.

Do they politically hold out as long as they can because the provincial capitol of Kherson has so much value or do they consolidate on the eastern side of that river? We'll find out in the weeks, possibly days ahead. Just as we speak as Russia loses land, it does not leave Ukraine's civilian population at peace.

Russian missiles have slammed during the early morning hours and day near Zaporizhzhia and an area where Russia has claimed falsely part of Russia hitting civilian apartment blocks, killing two individuals, possibly more casualties as news continues to evolve.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much for that.

All right. Alec Baldwin reaching a settlement in the movie shooting case.

Tracking crime in America. A lot missing from the latest numbers. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)