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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

World Cup In Qatar Plagued By Controversy From Day One; Elon Musk Defends $55B Tesla Pay Package At Trial; China's Xi Jinping Lectures Justin Trudeau Over Alleged Leaks. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 17, 2022 - 05:30   ET




SEPP BLATTER, FORMER FIFA PRESIDENT: The winner to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup is Qatar.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sports world was stunned when FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar. Controversy took center stage and football risked becoming a sideshow. Why was Qatar, a tiny desert state with no football pedigree, chosen to host FIFA's showpiece event? Even the disgraced former chief of football's governing body has since described the decision as a mistake.

BLATTER: I was right at a certain time to say it is -- we should not go there.

SOARES (voice-over): That move, 12 years ago, provoked unprecedented anger, accusations of corruption, and sportswashing. Qatari officials strongly denied the allegation that bribery was involved in their bid.

Before a ball is kicked at the year's tournament, attention has focused on Qatar's human rights record. Its stance on same-sex relationship, and most damaging to its reputation, the treatment of overseas workers drafted in to build essential infrastructure.

Amnesty International claims authorities failed to properly investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers despite evidence linking premature deaths with unsafe working conditions in the searing heat. Qatari officials say they investigate all reports of abuse and exploitation and are committed to holding unscrupulous employers to account.

DAVID BECKHAM, ENGLISH FORMER SOCCER PLAYER: How important is it to keep traditions like this?

SOARES (voice-over): Ambassadors like David Beckham have been criticized for accepting roles said to be worth millions of dollars.

JOE LYCETT, BRITISH COMEDIAN: If you end your relationship with Qatar, I'll donate this 10 grand of my own money.

SOARES (voice-over): Comedian Joe Lycett called out the former England captain, saying his status as a gay icon was under threat.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Qatar, considered immoral under Islamic law. Punishments include prison sentences and even death.

Organizers told CNN Qatar is a tolerant and welcoming country and claimed no one will be discriminated against. Nonetheless, calls to boycott the tournament have gathered momentum.

When the final whistle goes at Qatar 2022, the legacy will be judged not only over 28 days of football but in the years that lie ahead.

Isa Soares, CNN.



Quick hits around the globe right now.

A Dutch court is set to rule today in the case of four men with Russian ties who are linked to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17. That plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine, you'll recall, in 2014, killing all 298 aboard.

Israel is accusing Iran of launching a drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman. The Liberian-flagged Israeli-affiliated tanker was not badly damaged and completed its journey.

And Kim Jung Un's North Korea firing off another short-range ballistic missile. It landed in the waters off the peninsula's east coast. This marks the 33rd day this year that North Korea has carried out a missile test.

All right. Soon on EARLY START, the top law school in the country just pulled out of a key college rankings list. And could Elon Musk already be tired of running Twitter?



ROMANS: All right.

Tesla's CEO Elon Musk testifying at a trial over his 2018 compensation package that a shareholder lawsuit unjust enrichment. The $55 billion payday made him the world's richest person.

At one point, Musk told the court he doesn't want to be CEO of any company, saying, quote, "I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run it over time."

Until then, Musk delivered this ultimatum to Twitter employees this week -- commit hardcore to the work or get out -- and he's giving them until the close of business today to decide.

CNN's Clare Sebastian has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELON MUSK, OWNER AND CEO, TWITTER: I'm really working the absolute most amount that I can work from morning until night seven days a week.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Speaking from a room which he said had lost power, Elon Musk detailing the impact of his new power as Twitter's owner and CEO.

MUSK: I have too much work on my plate. That is for sure.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Touting his personal work ethic, then telling staff at Twitter in a memo shortly after they need to commit to quote "extremely hardcore" work or leave fits a pattern for Musk.

MUSK: Last time I was here I actually slept literally on the floor because the couch was too narrow.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): In 2018, he told CBS News he had been sleeping in his California factory while trying to fix production problems.

ANDY WU, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL: It is pushing people to a limit beyond what most of us would consider fair. If you look back at Tesla and SpaceX, what he is asking people to accomplish under tight deadlines is something we don't even know is technically possible.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): To say Musk is a culture shock for Twitter's staff -- the half of them that he did not fire -- would be an understatement. Having mandated 40 hours a week in the office for Tesla staff this June, he has now canceled much of Twitter's work- from-home policy, which just eight months ago allowed employees to work from home forever if they wanted.

MUSK: I present to you the cyber truck.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Musk seems to thrive on disruption, promising to quote "do a lot of dumb things" at Twitter in the first few months. And some would argue already delivering.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's mania mixed with chaos. It's just -- it's hard to imagine where it goes from here.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Others argue Twitter, a company that took 12 years to turn an annual profit, might benefit from Musk's brand of experimentation.

WU: We have to remember that Musk comes from a culture of SpaceX where he built in the culture there that it is acceptable for a $100 million rocket to explode and you can move on and build another one the next day. If you come from that kind of environment, messing up a checkmark on Twitter is honestly not as big a deal, I think, from their eyes.

MUSK: It's very important to accelerate transition to sustainable transport.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Beyond the chaos, Musk is a leader known for his desire to change the world --


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): -- and for having some success doing it.

MUSK: Well, I think it's very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): His vision for Twitter, a company he tried to back out of buying, may prove his most divisive yet.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


ROMANS: All right. Just ahead, see the moment one world leader lectured another about media leaks. But first, online shopping slows down. What's making stores cool again.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning is 25, as in 25 percent. That's how much your retirement account is down this year according to Fidelity. The typical IRA balance just shy of $102,000 right now. For 401Ks, the average balance dropped below the six-figure mark, down 22 percent versus a year ago.

Fidelity cites, of course, market swings. I mean, the S&P 500 is down 17 percent this year. All right, so that's gloomy.

But for younger investors, opportunity. Gen Zers actually increased their retirement balances slightly this quarter. The number of millennial accounts increasing by 25 percent. There is opportunity in down markets, especially for young people. Keep investing.

Looking at markets around the world this morning, European markets are mixed ahead of a big budget announcement in the U.K.

Also in international markets, Russia agreed to renew its grain deal to allow exports from Ukraine. Corn and wheat futures down sharply. That could be a good factor for the inflation story.

On Wall Street, stock index futures leaning a little bit lower here.

Stocks ended down after strong retail sales data -- economic strength that points to more interest rate hikes from the Fed to cool the economy. Retail sales rose 1.3 percent in October from September. Sales increased on everything from automobiles, furniture, and food services despite sky-high inflation.

Jobless claims are due out later today. We'll get a read on how the job market is doing.

And gas prices down a penny from yesterday, now $3.73 a gallon.

Let's bring in CNN Business reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn.

Strong retail sales. Walmart really blew away Wall Street with its quarter. But what happened to Target?


So, Walmart, yesterday, reported really strong -- excuse me, on Tuesday, reported really strong numbers. Sales grew 8.2 percent last quarter from a year ago. Walmart sells mostly groceries and that is what lower- and middle-income shoppers right now are buying, and they're pulling back on discretionary items.

Meanwhile, Target sells fewer groceries -- mostly discretionary products like home furniture, apparel, toys, electronics. And shoppers right now -- they're squeezed and they're pulling back on discretionary, shifting to groceries. And so, Target's stock had plunged yesterday, down 13 --


MEYERSOHN: -- percent -- yes. And Target's been really strong recently and we see these really disappointing numbers from the company.

And so that's kind of the match-up right now between Walmart and Target.

ROMANS: It's interesting. I thought it was kind of a takeaway of the Walmart earnings, too, was that higher-income shoppers are now going to Walmart for food and for other stuff, too. So you're seeing sort of that value at Walmart in the food aisle spilling over in different income strata.

Meanwhile, online shopping is slowing down. People are actually going back to stores. I mean, is the brick-and-mortar cool again?

MEYERSOHN: Right. So, if you think back to early in the pandemic, everybody was ordering from their couch and avoiding stores. And experts predicted that the shift to online shopping would be permanent and stores would become an afterthought, but they got it wrong.

You see online growth slowing. Companies like Wayfair, Amazon, Facebook -- they're laying off employees.


MEYERSOHN: That's a reflection of that.

And stores are roaring back. People want to get in there. They want to try on new clothing. Maybe they gained a size or two during the pandemic. I know my waistline grew and I had to try on some new -- some new clothes.

ROMANS: New jeans for Nathaniel. No, you look great.

MEYERSOHN: So, yes. So we see people want the experience of going into the store. They're fatigued with online shopping.

As the CEO of the largest mall owner in the country said, "Don't underestimate physical retail. Physical retail is where the action is" right now, and he's correct.

ROMANS: All right, let's talk about Thanksgiving. There are ways -- we know that the dinner is going to cost 20 percent more this year. There are ways to lower the bill?

MEYERSOHN: Right. So, people right now are very anxious about high prices for Thanksgiving, but major stores are offering big deals. Walmart's removing inflation, going back to last year's Thanksgiving meal prices.


MEYERSOHN: Lidl is offering a Thanksgiving meal under $30.00. Aldi going back to 2019 prices. And then, BJ's Wholesale Club -- you spend $150 there you get a free turkey.

So don't worry. Here is some good news. And stores -- they really want to get you in there for Thanksgiving with low prices.

ROMANS: Sure, a loss leader. Then you're going to buy other stuff, too, or you're going to get new customers and they're going to get new brand devotees.


All right, nice to see you. Thanks, Nathaniel.

All right. Next, a landmark same-sex marriage bill clearing a major hurdle in Washington. And how Mike Pence really feels about Donald Trump running again.


ROMANS: Spotted on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Chinese leader Xi Jinping confronting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

CNN's Will Ripley live in Bangkok, Thailand with more. And Will, this is -- this is -- this is a culture clash in a nutshell here, right? I mean, the free press in the West -- those democracies can be pretty leaky. That does not happen in China.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. And it is really striking to see the contrast between Chinese state media, which is showing these carefully choreographed public appearances by China's President Xi Jinping, and what Canadian broadcasters captured towards the end of the G20 in Bali this week when they walked right up.

Xi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau having a very awkward conversation. Xi essentially lecturing his Canadian counterpart over these leaked discussions about alleged Chinese election interference. Have a look.


TRANSLATOR: Everything we discussed has been leaked to the papers and that is not appropriate.

XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT: (Speaking foreign language).

TRANSLATOR: And that is not the way the conversation was conducted.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: In Canada, we believe in free and open, and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have. We will continue to look to work constructively together but there will be things we will disagree on and we will continue to have.

JINPING: (Speaking foreign language).

TRANSLATOR: Let's create the conditions first.


RIPLEY: Really striking to see that kind of interaction that we normally don't see from Xi Jinping who, after three years of self- imposed pandemic isolation is now back on the global stage. He just landed here in Bangkok within the last few hours where he will meet with the Japanese prime minister, the New Zealand prime minister.

And earlier this week in Bali, he had that marathon 3-hour meeting with President Biden, along with other U.S. allies -- like Australia, France, The Netherlands, South Korea -- all in an attempt to reset rocky relations with the West after a turbulent few years over hot- button issues, including Taiwan -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, fascinating. OK, Will. Nice to see you this morning. Thank you.

All right, college football rivals Central Michigan and Western Michigan facing off in the middle of a snowstorm last night.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey there, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, always more fun to watch than probably to be there, Christine. You know, this game was in Mount Pleasant, Michigan last night where they got about four inches of snow.

And this storm -- it's heading east and they're expecting up to four feet of snow in Buffalo this weekend for that Bills-Browns game. The NFL says they are monitoring the conditions but the game remains on for Sunday as of now.

Look at this fan in Michigan. He made himself a friend out of all the snow.

They had to use bulldozers to try to clear the field during this game.

And Western Michigan's Sean Tyler -- well, he had no problem running in the snow. He took this carry 53 yards for the touchdown.

Western Michigan would win the snow fest by a final 12-10.

All right. Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, returning to practice for the first time since his 11-game suspension yesterday. Since that suspension went into effect in the preseason, Watson can practice with the team for the next two weeks before he makes his return to the field on December 4 when the Browns take on his former team, the Houston Texans.

All right, in the NBA last night, Steph Curry putting on a show against the Suns. Steph pouring in 50 points. It was Steph's sixth 50- point game since he turned 30 years old trying Michael Jordan for the second-most all-time.

But it wasn't enough as they lost in Phoenix 130-119. The Warriors now 0-8 on the road this season.

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, meanwhile, continuing his red start to the season. He lit up the Wizards to the tune of 42 points last night, including what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer with just over a second remaining. SGA is averaging more than 31 points a game this season.

The crowd in Washington even chanting MVP for his performance.


SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER GUARD: People being fans and recognizing my game is cool. It's a pleasure. It's kind of the dream, you know, as a kid. You make it to the NBA and you want to be a phenomenal player. It's fun but I'm not going to let it get to my head though. But it's fun.


SCHOLES: All right, we had a big game in college hoops last night. Second-ranked Gonzaga playing at 11th-ranked Texas. This is the first time in 96 games that the Zags were an underdog. Texas was favored by two and maybe it should have been more. The Longhorns running the Bulldogs off the floor in this one, winning 93-74.

And Texas fans having some fun afterwards as they all ran on the court to celebrate.

All right. The U.S. Men's National team, meanwhile, gearing up to start the World Cup on Monday. Earlier this week, it was a pretty cool move. They invited some of the migrant workers there in Qatar to train with them. Now, the team also extended an invitation to servicemembers from the airbase as well as U.S. Embassy personnel and their families to watch yesterday's training session. They signed some autographs for them, so a cool deal there.

World Cup, Christine, starts on Sunday. The U.S. plays the first game Monday at 2:00 eastern against Wales.

ROMANS: That's going to be a lot of fun. How nice to share the field there.

Thanks so much. Nice to see you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right, have a good one.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.