Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Camp Lejeune Victims Still Awaiting Closure After Decades; Today: New Jobs Report Amid Wave Of Tech Layoffs; Expanded College Football Playoff Coming In 2024. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 02, 2022 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Spain increasing security measures after six letter bombs were discovered over the past week. One targeting the U.S. Embassy was detonated in a controlled environment. No one was hurt.

Mexico is raising its daily minimum wage by 20 percent beginning in January. Government officials say it will increase from nine U.S. dollars a day to $10.82.

Ahead, we're waiting for the release of the critical November jobs report. Is hiring finally slowing like the Fed wants?

Plus --


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Potentially, how big is this?

ANDREW VAN ARSDALE, AVA LAW GROUP: Over a million people were likely exposed to this toxic water.


ROMANS: Thousands of victims still looking for closure from the contamination at Camp Lejeune. CNN reports next.



ROMANS: Thousands of victims at Camp Lejeune are still waiting for closure after being poisoned by contaminated water at the North Carolina Marine base. Claims filed by servicemen and their families have received zero response from the U.S. military.

We get more from CNN's Nick Watt.


TELEVISION ADS: If you were stationed or working at Camp Lejeune you may be eligible for significant financial compensation. Please give us a call.

WATT (voice-over): You've probably seen the commercials -- lawyers lining up to help veterans in return for a slice of a potentially huge money pie. Huge because the water at this vast Marine base in North Carolina was contaminated over 30-plus years by an off-base dry cleaner's leaky storage tanks and chemical dumping -- 1953 to 1987.

WATT (on camera): Potentially, how big is this?

Over a million people were likely exposed to this toxic water during that time period. And what does that mean in terms of damages? I mean, it's off the charts.

WATT (voice-over): Greg Sexton's mom saw one of the commercials -- their first inkling that Camp Lejeune's water might be to blame for what happened to him.

GREG SEXTON, CAMP LEJEUNE WATER CLAIMANT: So I spent the summer there in 1977. I was eight years old. And I was spending time with my father who was in the Marines. He was a sergeant in the Marines.

When I was 17, I was diagnosed with what's called a Wilms tumor.

WATT (voice-over): He had kidney cancer, one of the diseases now potentially linked to those chemicals in the water on the base.

A base where Ann Johnson lived with her Marine sergeant dad, where she met her future husband in high school. Where she gave birth in 1984.

WATT (on camera): They didn't bring her to you immediately, no?

ANN JOHNSON, CAMP LEJEUNE WATER CLAIMANT: They did not. I guess they were trying to prepare me for what she looked like.

WATT (voice-over): Ann's baby, Jacquetta, lived just seven weeks -- aged 18 and forced into a horrific decision to let her daughter go.

JOHNSON: I looked at my husband he just dropped his head not knowing what to say. And so, I looked up at the doctor and I said just let her go.

WATT (voice-over): Birth defects also now potentially linked to those chemicals in the water on the base.

Here is the history. In 1980, tests found water is highly contaminated. In 1981, water highly contaminated with other chlorinated hydrocarbons -- solvents. The most contaminated wells weren't closed for four years after further testing.

In February 1985, PCE, a dry cleaning solvent, was measured at 43 times the current EPA limit for drinking water here in Tarawa Terrace, which houses enlisted men and their families.

Two months later, the base commander sent them all a letter. "Two of the wells that supply Tarawa Terrace have had to be taken offline because minute (trace) amounts of several organic chemicals have been detected in the water." No health warning -- just a request to "reduce domestic water use" because supply was now limited.

Apparently, a mass health warning didn't come until much later -- 14 years later.

VAN ARSDALE: In certain areas, the water is super-contaminated; other areas, it wasn't. The Marine Corps barracks, right -- the bachelor barracks -- that was in the areas where the water was tainted.

WATT (voice-over): Large sections of the base used by officers and enlisted alike were affected. Van Arsdale asked his 6,000 or so clients what rank were you when you were exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune? Ninety-six point three percent of respondents say they were enlisted. Three point seven percent were officers. Worth noting, there were always more enlisted men than officers on base.

An act of Congress passed in August allows Marines and their kin to file civil claims.

SEXTON: Some simple acknowledgment would be my wish for everything moving forward.

WATT (voice-over): The Navy has six months to process their claims.

VAN ARSDALE: They've received almost 5,000 claims as of today. They have not yet done anything about any of them.

WATT (on camera): Do you think any of the claims that you've filed so far will actually be processed within the 6-month window?

VAN ARSDALE: As of today, I do not.

WATT (voice-over): And if not, claims could end up in a courthouse in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

WATT (on camera): But litigation could take years to even get inside a courthouse.

VAN ARSDALE: It really could. I think that they are too worried about how to defend themselves than focus on what they should be doing, and that's to make these lives better of the men and women who are suffering today.

JOHNSON: Rather than it being me -- that it could have been the water that I consumed, the government could be responsible for what I went through.


My ex-husband went on to remarry and have a couple more children, and there was nothing wrong with them. Jacquetta had to be me because his other kids are fine. So it had to be me.

WATT (on camera): So, the Navy unit handling the claims wouldn't talk to us on camera, citing ongoing claims and potential litigation. They said that they are now in the first phase of handling the claims but concede that they have not actually adjudicated not even one, not yet. But they say that the Navy is committed to quote "resolving the claims in a fair, thorough, and timely manner."

Now, the Marine Corps also wouldn't speak to us on camera, but they say that we care deeply about our service members, veterans, civilian workforce, and families, including those who have experienced health issues they believe are related to their time in the service.

Now, the issue here is that a lot of people are sick right now and could really use the money right now, not in five years. Because in five years, some of them might have died.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


ROMANS: Thank you so much for that, Nick. A very important story there.

All right, a lavish White House state dinner -- the guest list, a who's who. You'll see, ahead. And no cashier, no problem. Self- checkout spreads to even more stores.



ROMANS: All right. Less than three hours from now is November's jobs report.

Until then, looking at markets around the world, European markets are mixed this morning. The big news out of that region, the EU tentatively agreeing on a $60.00 price cap on Russian oil. You can see Asian shares also mixed.

And on Wall Street, stock index futures barely moving here after a mixed day for stocks drifted between gains and losses all day. The Nasdaq finished the day higher.

The Fed's favorite inflation measure cooled in October. Mortgage rates dipped for the third straight week on that cooling inflation. The 30- year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 6.49 percent.

November's jobs report due out at 8:30 a.m. eastern. We're expecting to hear about 200,000 jobs added during the month. The jobless rate expected to hold steady at 3.7 percent.

So what does it all tell us? What have we learned this week?

Let's bring in chief economist at Morning Consult, John Leer.

And John, here's what -- here's what I learned this week. I learned that inflation might be cooling. Consumer spending is still very strong. The economy plugging along at 2.9 percent in the third quarter. Pre-pandemic, that would be a great quarter.

So maybe this is the best bad economy I can ever remember.

JOHN LEER, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MORNING CONSULT (via Webex by Cisco): Yes, thanks for having me.

You're exactly right. The economy has been shockingly resilient to date despite all of these headwinds from inflation and some of the geopolitical tensions.

I do think that we're starting to see growing concerns on the personal finances front with additional consumer debt. There's a lot of, sort of, I think unaccounted for debt in the buy now, pay later space. Those are some of the concerns and some of the headwinds that I think we're likely to face throughout next year.

ROMANS: Yes. Buy now, pay later -- that's something that we learned in this holiday shopping weekend that a lot of people -- more people were starting to use. It's really good if you pay everything off. If it's not, it becomes a debt bomb. And so that is something here to watch.

In the jobs market, every morning we're getting a new tech layoff announcement, right? But the Fed chief this week noted there are 1.7 jobs for every jobseeker. The labor market is still very tight -- maybe too tight. If we see 200,000 jobs added or even less, that actually could be a good thing, right?

LEER: I think so.

So on the tech front, I think Powell is right that despite some of these tech layoffs, the tech sector really only represents about seven percent of the workforce. And a lot of those workers who are being laid off are going to be absorbed elsewhere because they're highly skilled and we remain in a very tight labor market.

I think the question is going to be as job growth slows, to what extent can the Federal Reserve sort of attribute that slowing job growth to higher interest rates as opposed to just sort of a gradual and persistent slowing in the economy driven by sort of broader business cycle factors?

That's going to be particularly challenging for the Fed because they're struggling right now to understand how monetary policy is being transmitted through the economy in this sort of pandemic -- this pandemic world.

ROMANS: Yes, the pandemic world -- I keep saying it -- sort of broke all the charts. You know, how to measure.

What are you expecting for the Fed's next rate hike? It'll -- it won't be 75 basis points.

LEER: I don't think so, and they've signaled pretty clearly that they're moving in the direction of 50 basis points. The question for me really is how long are you going to keep interest rates elevated, and I think the answer is going to be quite some time -- probably longer than a lot of folks anticipate. Because some of those core services components of PCE are pretty sticky and they're going to take some time to come down.

ROMANS: All right, John Leer. Nice to see you. Happy jobs day, and have a really great weekend, OK?

LEER: Thank you. Same to you.

ROMANS: All right, last day for early voting in the Georgia Senate runoff. And police still looking for leads in the murder of those four Idaho college students.




Customer using self-checkout.


ROMANS: That's the familiar beep at the self-checkout counter. You'll still be hearing it -- soon be hearing it at more stores as sellers want you to do it yourself -- DIY checking out.

Let's bring in CNN business reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn. Are they making money doing this? I mean, I see it more and more everywhere, especially at the grocery store.

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Right. So we're used to seeing it at Walmart --


MEYERSOHN: -- Kroger, pharmacies like CVS. Now it's spreading to stores you would expect -- clothing stores, department stores, other types of retailers. So, recently, Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, H&M, Uniqlo, Zara -- they've all expanded self-checkout.

Self-checkout is very controversial, Christine. Some people love it. They think it moves more quickly than going through a cashier. Other people hate it. They get so frustrated by all of the errors. Think about the number of times you hear "unexpected item in the bagging area."

ROMANS: Oh my gosh.

MEYERSOHN: It's so irritating.

But stores really like it because it saves them money on labor. They can move cashiers to other parts of the store. Plus, they want to keep up with the latest technology. Retail is an arms race and once one company rolls it out everybody jumps on board.

ROMANS: So my personal experience -- I've been asking everybody this morning. My personal experience is that woman there -- she is a little faster than I am. I'm always looking. There's a sticker missing from the produce or you have to stretch out the bar code to make it scan.

[05:55:05] But I did check out some stuff at Uniqlo and it was really easy. Put your sweatshirts in a bag, throw it in a bin, and you just pay for it and leave.

MEYERSOHN: Right. Some people think that it's faster to use self- checkout, but with all of the errors, it can actually be slower than going through a checkout -- through a cashier.

ROMANS: Yes. How many times have you had to have somebody come and swipe their badge just to help you get through there.

Meanwhile, Congress, this week, held a hearing on this huge $25 billion proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. What's the scrutiny here?

MEYERSOHN: Right. So, Kroger and Albertsons want to merge to create a grocery empire that can take on Walmart and Amazon. Last year, the two companies combined -- Kroger and Albertsons -- had more than $200 billion in sales, nearly 5,000 stores, and more than 700,000 employees.

But this week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, held a bipartisan hearing and they were very critical of the merger. Senator Elizabeth Warren, this week, also tweeted that the FTC should block the merger. She said that it would increase consolidation, drive out smaller mom-and-pop grocery stores, and raise prices for consumers.

ROMANS: Yes, competition. They want to make sure there's enough competition -- a lot of these smaller markets, in particular.

Nathaniel Meyersohn, thank you so much. Nice to see you. Have a great weekend.

All right, to the NFL where the Bills picked up their third-straight win in New England last night.

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


So after a bit of a rough patch, the Bills -- they are back on top of the AFC East after getting their third win in a row last night.

Josh Allen looking good in this one. He threw for touchdowns in the second quarter to give the Bills a 10-point lead heading into halftime. I'm not sure we're going to see it -- oh, here is Josh Allen. Here comes those two touchdowns I was talking about.

So the Bills had that lead at halftime. The defense doing it from there.

The Patriots scored just three points after the first quarter. And actually, Mac Jones -- he was very frustrated on the sidelines, calling out the play-calling. He said after the game he was just trying to give the team a spark.

It was a scary moment near the end of this game. Jakobi Meyers gets absolutely drilled right in the head trying to catch this pass. Bills safety Damar Hamlin actually ejected for leading with his helmet on that play. Meyers was able to walk off the field on his own.

The Bills win this one by a final 24-10.

Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, speaking to the media yesterday as he gets set to make his Browns debut on Sunday. Watson was suspended 11 games after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women. Watson has maintained he's innocent -- and yesterday, only wanted to talk football.


DESHAUN WATSON, CLEVELAND BROWNS QUARTERBACK: I understand that you guys have a lot of questions. But with my legal team and my clinical team, there's only football questions that I can really address at this time.

Yes, I want to focus in on football. That's my main focus is football and preparing to be a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns so I can execute the game plan to try to get a win this Sunday.


SCHOLES: Watson's first game will be back in Houston where he played his first four seasons and where many of the alleged incidents took place. Around 10 of Watson's accusers are expected to attend Sunday's game with their attorneys.

All right, the college football playoff is officially expanded to 12 teams in 2024, two years earlier than planned. The move was made official yesterday after the Rose Bowl agreed to give up its demands to keep its traditional 5:00 p.m. eastern New Year's Day timeslot and -- be part of the deal.

Number four USC is going to try and secure its first playoff spot with a win over Utah in the PAC 12 title game tonight. But to do that, they'll need avenge their only loss of the season, which came against Utah. Georgia, Michigan, and TCU play their conference championships tomorrow.

All right, finally, Jets quarterback Mike White preparing to make his second start this weekend. He replaced bench quarterback Zach Wilson on Sunday and threw three touchdown passes in the Jets' win. He's been on the cover of all the New York papers and tabloids, and Jets fans just elated with his play.

And White and his wife not quite used to all the attention he's getting.


MIKE WHITE, NEW YORK JETS QUARTERBACK: My wife actually looked at me and, you know, when I first saw her she goes who are you? What -- who are you? No, she was awesome.


SCHOLES: You've got to love that, Christine. Mike White going home and he's become the hero of New York for football -- and his wife -- who are you?

ROMANS: Stay humble, baby.


ROMANS: Stay humble. Remember where he came from.

All right, nice to see you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Have a great weekend.

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


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vive la France, and God bless America.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, that champagne looks good. I could drink a little mimosa right now to start the weekend off.

Good morning, everyone. That was --


LEMON: -- President Biden hosting French President Macron at the White House, using the first state dinner of his presidency to honor America's.