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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

DeSantis Vs. Crist Tonight In Sole Televised Debate; Iran Vows To Sue U.S., Alleging "Direct Involvement" In Protests; Astros And Phillies To Face Off In World Series. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 24, 2022 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist square off tonight in their only televised debate. Crist is behind in the polls and has been outspent by DeSantis by an 8-1 margin. Early voting also begins today across much of Florida. Many political observers believe a win by DeSantis will set the stage for a 2024 White House run.

Steve Contorno live from St. Petersburg, Florida for us this morning. Nice to see you this morning, Steve.

The recovery from Hurricane Ian has taken a lot of the focus off of this race. Crist has an uphill climb here to close the gap. What is his strategy? What do you expect to see tonight?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Christine, it's very clear that Charlie Crist needs one of those breakthrough moments or two if he wants to build any momentum for his campaign going into the final weeks of this race.

And that's not just because he's down in the polls or because Gov. DeSantis is more popular than maybe people expected at this time, but he also has a significant fundraising disadvantage and Democrats have just -- so far, have just half a million dollars saved in air time for these final weeks in the race. You know, these campaigns reserve their air time sometimes weeks in advance. And in Florida, Democrats are basically coming off the airwaves or don't have much plan to spend in the final weeks.

So this is going to be one of his last opportunities to speak directly to voters in many parts of the state.

So what is that going to look like tonight? Well, he has made it very clear that he wants to make this issue about -- race about one issue, abortion. There has been so much focus from this campaign on abortion access in the state going forward -- whether or not Gov. DeSantis, in his second term, would restrict abortion even further.

DeSantis, this year, signed a 15-week ban that would ban abortion in almost every instance unless the mother's life is in danger. And he has said he would do more to protect life if -- in the wake of the Dobbs decision. What that exactly means he has been pretty coy about. So I think you're going to see Charlie Crist tonight try to pin Gov. DeSantis down on that.

I think he's also going to talk a lot about how expensive it has gotten in Florida. This is a state that people kind of move to expecting to find a little piece of their paradise in retirement or to get a new start, and it's gotten really, really pricey here. And he has blamed that on Republican leadership for the past 20 years.


ROMANS: Interesting.

CONTORNO: Of course, that makes it difficult for Charlie Crist to do because, at one point, he was part of that Republican leadership. He was a Republican governor in the state before changing parties, so that's made it a little bit of a challenge for him.

But, Christine, for -- on the other side, you have Gov. DeSantis. I think tonight we're going to see him really step on a debate stage for the first time in four years and give voters in Florida, but also political consultants and maybe future primary voters a chance to see him go head-to-head with a Democrat and build his case for what might be a presidential campaign as soon as 2023.

ROMANS: All right, Steve Contorno for us in Florida. Thanks so much, Steve.

The teenager accused of killing four students at a Michigan high school last year is expected to plead guilty to murder charges today. Ethan Crumbley faces 24 charges, including one count of terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder. He was 15 years old at the time of the shooting at Oxford High School last November. Prosecutors say Crumbley will receive no plea deal

Doctors say the cold-like virus RSV is running rampant in children across the country. A surge of respiratory illness has overwhelmed pediatric hospitals. According to the CDC, there were 7,334 cases of RSV detected by PCR tests in the U.S. in the week ended October 15. That's higher than any week in the past two years.

Health officials say the symptoms of RSV typically appear four to six days after an infection and they include runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing.

With RSV cases spiking, the former FDA commissioner is warning parents not to let their guard down.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: For parents who have children who have an upper respiratory infection, many times they are testing them and finding out it's not COVID and feeling relieved. I think they still need to be vigilant that it could be RSV, it could be early flu. So if you see progressive symptoms, seek out help from a doctor. There are treatments that are available that could help children with RSV.


ROMANS: Dr. Gottlieb there says for kids under two years old, RSV can be a very serious infection.

Education Sec. Miguel Cardona vows to keep moving full speed ahead to implement President Biden's student debt relief program. That's even though a federal appeals court put a temporary hold on it last week preventing the administration from canceling any loans.

CNN's Joe Johns has the latest.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals telling the Biden administration to hold off and not start canceling loans under its debt forgiveness program until the court can take a look at it.

One of the questions that has been raised is whether the Biden administration needs the approval of Congress before the president can start canceling these loans. The administration says the White House already got the approval of Congress way back in 2003. Another question is whether the six states that sued can show a concrete injury to the court.

The Biden administration, for its part, has said it's full speed ahead. It's going to continue taking applications for these loans as well as reviewing applications for the loans even though it can't start canceling debt.

Over the weekend, the Secretary of Education writing in an op-ed, "Amid some Republicans trying every which way to block the Biden administration's debt relief program, the department is moving full speed ahead with preparations for the lawful implementation of our program so we can deliver relief to borrowers who need it the most."

The administration has a deadline of Monday to submit a response to the lawsuit. On Tuesday, the six states that sued will deliver their reply.

Joe Johns, CNN, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.


ROMANS: All right, Joe. Thanks for that.

This just in. A national report card finds math and reading scores for fourth and eighth graders in the U.S. dropped during the pandemic and the decline in math scores is the largest ever. The is the first national assessment of student achievement in three years -- since before the pandemic.

According to the report, no state or large urban school district showed improvements in math, and eighth-grade math scores sank in the more than 50 states and jurisdictions that took part in this student assessment.

Education Sec. Miguel Cardona calls the results appalling and unacceptable.

Author Salman Rushdie has lost sight in one eye and his hand is incapacitated. That's according to Rushdie's literary agent, Andrew Wiley. Rushdie underwent surgery -- emergency surgery, remember, after he was stabbed more than a dozen times before a scheduled lecture in August.

The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.

Rushdie had been living under a fatwa, a religious edict ordering Muslims to kill him, since 1989.


Iran says it's going to sue the United States. The country is accusing the U.S. of direct involvement in the anti-government protests that have swept the nation for more than a month. Tehran also warns the U.K. and Saudi Arabia it will not be ignored by the Islamic Republic's legal system.

CNN's Anna Coren live in Hong Kong with more. Anna, these protests are not letting up. And we're learning a hacker group breached the Iranian Atomic Energy body's email servers.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, that's right. Protests have entered their sixth week as students defy authorities to take to the streets in university campuses around the country to voice their opposition against the Iranian government.

The nationwide protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini back in September after being arrested by the morality police for wearing an improper hijab. And those protests have now spread to workers and labor unions calling for strikes.

It comes following a show of support over the weekend by the Iranian diaspora in solidarity of what is happening in Iran. The largest protest was staged in Berlin. Eighty thousand people turned out there in a sea of red, white, and green calling for an end to the Iranian regime.

Meantime, as you say, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has confirmed that its email system was hacked. The government claims it was a foreign country.

The anti-government hacker group Black Reward, which has been encouraging people to take the streets in protest, says it's behind the breach. It published 100,000 email messages and plans of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. It also claimed responsibility for the hacking of Iranian state T.V. last week.

The hackers have issued an ultimatum to the government to release the detained protesters or it will publish more sensitive and embarrassing documents -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Anna Coren following that for us. Thank you so much, Anna.

Next, my conversation with Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio. How his company is preparing for a possible recession.



ROMANS: All right, happy Monday morning, everybody. Let's get a check on CNN Business to start the week.

Looking at markets around the world, you can see Asian shares closed mixed here. London has also opened slightly lower, but Paris and Frankfurt are up. On Wall Street, stock index futures are leaning down just a little bit.

All three major indices surged Friday, marking Wall Street's best week since June. The hope, after one more big rate hike, the pace of tightening may slow starting in December. The Dow is now up three weeks in a row, the longest weekly winning streak of the year.

A critical week ahead for investors, homebuyers, and consumers. New readings on home sales and prices as mortgage rates approach seven percent. And the first official look Thursday at third-quarter gross domestic product. The U.S. economy shrank in the first and second quarters but is expected to have rebounded in the third quarter.

We'll also hear from hundreds of American companies as they navigate high inflation and rising interest rates. An earnings trend is emerging here. CEOs see headwinds ahead but right now, profits are solid and consumers appear to be in good shape.

From American Express, quote, "We have not seen changes in the spending behaviors of our customers, but we are mindful of the mixed signals in the broader economy."

And this from United Airlines. "With hybrid work, every weekend could be a holiday weekend. That's why September, a normally off-peak month, was the third strongest month in our history."

More airlines report earnings this week.

For investors, it has been a tumultuous October. The Standard and Poor's 500 is down 22 percent this year, on track for the worst year since the Great Recession.

Of course, inflation is coursing through the economy with higher prices for all kinds of goods, forcing big food companies to raise their prices, too.

I sat down with the CEO of Kraft Heinz, Miguel Patricio, to ask him how consumers are changing their habits to cope with these higher prices and how Kraft Heinz is coping with new supply chain problems. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIGUEL PATRICIO, CEO, KRAFT HEINZ: We try to minimize inflation on everything we do. I mean, it would be very easy just to pass the price to consumers but that has consequence.

So I think that as an organization -- as a food company, we have to try to do everything we can to keep the final cost of our products as low as possible. To do that, we have to be much more efficient in our factories. We have to buy better. And so, it's a constant fight to try to minimize price increases.

ROMANS: Will you be raising prices this fall?

PATRICIO: We've already increased the prices that we were expecting this year but I'm predicting that next year inflation will continue -- and as a consequence, we'll have other rounds of price increases.


ROMANS: And he says there are supply chain hiccups every single week -- new ones cropping up constantly.

And I asked him if there is a recession on the horizon, what is his plan.


ROMANS: How do you prepare for the possibility of a recession?

PATRICIO: We need to prepare for the worst and hope for the better --


PATRICIO: -- right? And so, adapting portfolios, working with multipacks, thinking about promotions, launching new products, accepting the inflation and trying to predict faster and adapt faster. It has to be an obsessive mentality every day. Every day we have a new problem.

It's the new normal. At the beginning, we thought it was a crisis. Now we know it's a new normal and we have to adapt to that.


ROMANS: Kraft's inflation strategy -- you heard him mention multipacks. Multipacks of Kraft Mac and Cheese, for example. And a variety of price points so that cost-conscious consumers can, for example, pick a bottle of Heinz catsup that matches their budget -- either a big one or a small one if they don't have a lot of money in the grocery bill that week.


All right, Bryce Harper leading the Philadelphia Phillies all the way to the World Series. How he got them there. And a bizarre fight breaking out between a Pee-Wee Football player and a mascot. What in the world is going on here? The Bleacher Report, next.


ROMANS: All right, the World Series matchup is set. The Astros will take on the Phillies in the fall classic starting Friday.

Andy Scholes is in the house with this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


Yes -- so I was at Yankee Stadium last night. I'll tell you what, Yankees fans -- they are down bad. The Houston Astros just have their number. They've knocked them out the last four times they've faced each other in the postseason. This time, the Astros sweeping the Yankees.


But in Philly, meanwhile, check out this incredible scene. I mean, the Phillies gave Bryce Harper $330 million in free agency a few years ago hoping it would get them back to the World Series. It did just that.

Down one, runner on, bottom of the eighth -- crushes that ball. The 43,000 fans just going bonkers. The bullpen was even jumping around like they were little kids. Phillies won that one 4-3. They now head to their first World Series since 2009.

Harper the MVP of the NLCS and he said they're not done yet.


BRYCE HARPER, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES OUTFIELDER: We've got four more. We're going to bring this --


SCHOLES: Yes, and Phillies fans taking the celebration to the streets. Police actually greased the street lamps to try to prevent the fans from climbing them, but no grease is stopping an excited Phillies fan, as you can see.

Meanwhile, the Astros now heading into their fourth World Series in the past six years as they completed that sweep of the Yankees.

Rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena once again coming through. He hit a huge 3-run blast in the fourth to tie the game. He was named the ALCS MVP.

In the seventh inning, it was a tie game when Alex Bregman comes to the plate. He hits this single into right. Pena would score to put the Stros up 6-5. That would be your final.

The Yankees crowd that was chanting "We want Houston" less than a week ago is left just stunned. Now they wonder if Aaron Judge has played his last game in pinstripes. He is a free agent. All right. In the NFL, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa returning to the field after missing two games while recovering from a concussion. And Tua wasn't holding back at all in this one. First quarter, scrambles instead of sliding and lowers the shoulder into the defender.

Coach Mike McDaniel said he had talked with Tua about not putting himself in bad situations and Tua actually apologized for running that one.

No one scored in this game in the second half -- you can see Tua's family watching on there -- but the Dolphins would get the win 16-10.

All right, the nightmare season for Tom Brady, meanwhile, just continuing yesterday in Charlotte. The Panthers -- they fired their coach and traded their star running back Christian McCaffrey over the past two weeks, but still able to just dominate the Bucs 21-3.

Tampa Bay is now 3-4 on the season, marking the first time since 2002 that Brady is below 500 after seven weeks in a season. Brady, just eight touchdowns in seven games into this season as well. Nothing going right for them in Tampa.

All right -- and finally, check out this viral video of Freddie the Falcon going full dirty bird in a game against a youth football team. After giving up the long play, the mascot delivered that big hit, knocking the kid out of bounds. And then they kind of got into it after he taunted him a little bit -- a little shoving match right there. The rest of the team getting involved.

And, Christine, we saw blooper of the Braves with a big hit a month ago. I don't know what's up with these mascots. They -- they're just after these kids.

ROMANS: I know, but little kids.

SCHOLES: Take it a little easy, right? I mean, they don't need to go full force like that.

ROMANS: I don't know what that's all about but that's not good sportsmanship, I'm pretty sure.

Nice to see you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right, Harvey Weinstein is back in court today. The disgraced 70-year-old Hollywood producer faces four rape charges and seven other counts of sexual assault in Los Angeles. Weinstein is serving 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault after a conviction in a New York trial. The new charges could result in a sentence of up to 140 years.

Documentary filmmaker and actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom is one of the women accusing Weinstein.

All right, big stars giving a boost to the box office this weekend.


Clip from Warner Bros. "Black Adam."


ROMANS: "Black Adam," starring Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson, took the number-one spot with an estimated $67 million. It breaks a blockbuster dry spell for movie theaters lately.

And in second place --


Clip from Universal Pictures "Ticket to Paradise."


ROMANS: "Ticket to Paradise" stars Hollywood legends George Clooney and Julia Roberts. The film brought in more than $16 million, which is notable for the romantic comedy genre.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" starts right now.