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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Beijing Drops COVID Test Requirements For Some Public Spaces; Rivals Spain And Portugal Look To Book Quarterfinal Spots In World Cup; Dozens Of Russian Nationals Fight To Defend Ukraine From Putin. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 05:30   ET



STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Lack of consistency nationwide across different regions, but also the underlying challenges facing the government in terms of dealing with a potential surge of severe cases. Not to mention for millions of parents, like myself, the ultimate test would be if and when they reopen school campuses around the country, which has not been the case for the most part.

But a lot of this confusion and chaos obviously because of how highly centralized the system here is.

A lot of local officials still waiting to hear from the top man. And Xi Jinping has not been addressing this issue in recent days despite that rather surprising revelation that last week he told the visiting European council president that recent protests, mainly by students and young people, after -- because of frustration after three years of COVID, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Steven Jiang. Thank you so much for that. Nice to see you this morning.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

Ten men suspected in the 2016 terrorist bombings in Brussels are now on trial. Thirty-two people were killed and more than 300 injured. Nine of the suspects face potential life sentences on murder and attempted murder terror charges.

Indonesia just made it a crime to have sex outside of marriage. Violators could face a year in prison. This applies to tourists, too. It's unclear exactly how the government plans to enforce the law.

Boxing powerhouse Cuba has approved the creation of a sanctioned league for women. They plan to have female fighters at the Pan American Games next year.

In World Cup action, long-time rivals Portugal and Spain look set to -- look to set up a quarterfinal showdown on tap for today. Spain kicks off against Morocco at 10:00 a.m. Portugal takes on Switzerland at 2:00 p.m. Let's get to CNN's Amanda Davies standing by live in Doha, Qatar. A lot of fans, Amanda, also wondering if this is Cristiano Ronaldo's last World Cup.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, 37 years of age, Christine -- his fifth World Cup. But unlike Lionel Messie, Cristiano hasn't really talked in those terms so far. He's just been discussing the fact. Even though he's without a club at the moment, he wants to carry on playing at the top level of his game. Perhaps no surprise that because of his status.

He has been dominating the talk and the buildup to the last 16 encounters once again. Not only speculation about whether or not he's signed a deal for a team in Saudi Arabia. Also, talk of unrest with his manager Fernando Santos after his reaction to being substituted often in their last game against South Korea.

Some sources giving it all pretty short shrift, you have to say. He says we are here and talking, and focused on winning this World Cup. And they need to be focused because they've got a tough match ahead of them today against the Swiss side to actually beat them the last time they met back in June.

Now, in terms of the earlier game, the crowd here, without doubt, majority behind Morocco, the last side flying the flag for the Arab nations here in this tournament. There has been an incredible last- minute demand for tickets.

We can hear the fans in the suite behind us already ahead of their encounter against Spain -- a match that their boss Walid Regragui has described as the biggest in their country's history back at this stage of the tournament for the first time since 1986. And it really would be an upset that they are very keen to cause, but it would be a big one beating the 2010 champion, Spain.

But I have to say, Christine, you wonder whether or not these four sides watched on last night as Brazil did their thing. If hope and expectation around them lifting a record-extending six trophies was high ahead of their last 16 encounter, it is now absolutely through the roof after what really was a magical performance. It sounds cliche but it really was like a PlayStation game that we saw play out at times, with the team's spirit, the dancing on the touchline after the goal.

Sixty-one-year-old coach Tite getting involved in his suit, looking a little bit incongruous dancing with the players.

But they certainly put on a show. They had the well-wishes of Pele ahead of the game and it worked.

ROMANS: That's so cool.

All right, Amanda, thank you so much.

Ahead, NASA's Orion space capsule heading home after one last lunar fly-by. Plus -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For Vladimir Putin, the Orthodox Church is absolutely central to his vision of the Russian world. For some Russians, though, that's a world they don't want to live in.


ROMANS: Russians fighting against Russians to defend Ukraine, next.



ROMANS: This morning, heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine. It's concentrated in the Bakhmut area. The Kremlin determined to capture that city. Incredibly, there are some Russian nationals there who are fighting against their countrymen to defend Ukraine from Putin's invasion.

CNN's Sam Kiley has more.


KILEY (voice-over): Cesar is Russian. He's taking a break at a monastery from fighting Russians in the (INAUDIBLE) Bakhmut. It's a relief from scenes like this -- Bakhmut's Ukrainian field hospital. He's been defending this Ukrainian town from Russia's most intense assault along an 800-mile front.


(Artillery shots)

Artillery duels and trench warfare have almost destroyed Bakhmut as Russia throws its army at a bid for victory after months of defeats to the north and south.

KILEY (voice-over): Defending Bakhmut against its Russian motherland is a religious imperative for Caesar.

CAESAR, RUSSIAN FIGHTING FOR UKRAINE: (Speaking foreign language).

"The fighting is very brutal now," he says. "There are very few prisoners."

KILEY (on camera): When you see those Russians in your gun sights, what do you think and what do you feel?

CAESAR: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): "I believe that these people who have broken the law of man and the law of God -- I have no pity for them. I take them prisoner if I can but most often, I just have to kill them."

KILEY (on camera): So, have you killed a lot of your countrymen?

CAESAR: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): "A dozen and a half."

KILEY (on camera): This is the remains of a Russian Orthodox monastery. Now, for Vladimir Putin, the Orthodox Church is absolutely central to his vision of the Russian world. For some Russians, though, that's a world they don't want to live in. Indeed, they don't want it to survive.

KILEY (voice-over): Ukraine's Orthodox Church broke with Moscow three years ago. This is all that's left of a rebranded Ukrainian Orthodox, St. George's monastery after nine months of war.

VINNIE, RUSSIAN FIGHTING FOR UKRAINE: Putin says that he defends traditional values, yes -- and that's the result of his defending. A ruined, old monastery.

KILEY (voice-over): Vinnie has been fighting in Bakhmut for weeks against mercenaries from Russia's Wagner -- many of them convicted criminals.

"It's obvious," he says. "When private companies hire criminals and convicts. Imagine -- a man kills once and they put him in jail. Then he kills a second time and he becomes a repeat offender under the law. Then he gets let out of jail and given a gun. That's not a person, that's a beast."

After a former Wagner deserter Yevgeny Nuzhin was murdered in a video that was praised by Wagner's boss Yvgeny Prigozhin, Vinnie is in no doubt how he would be treated if captured.

VINNIE: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): "It'll be the end, 100 percent, but it'll just be more painful."

The Russian Legion does claim to be in the hundreds and it says many more back home are trying to join Ukraine's army. Alongside their Ukrainian allies, the Russian Legion is focused on the battle for Bakhmut. The aim of the war after is more ambitious.

VINNIE (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): He says, "I'm doing my military and Christian duty. I defend the Ukrainian people. And when Ukraine is free, I will carry my sword to Russia to free it from tyranny."

Sam Kiley, CNN, Dolyna, Ukraine.


ROMANS: All right, Sam, great reporting there. Thank you so much.

Eating junk food may increase your risk of dementia. How to protect yourself ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING." And consumers finally catch a break after months of surging inflation.



ROMANS: Your Romans' Numeral this morning, $31.4 trillion. That's the nation's credit card limit.

Lawmakers are set for a major debate of raising that debt limit. Goldman Sachs warns to raise the debt limit next year, bipartisan support will be necessary but hard to achieve. The fight could rock markets and threaten the economy on the brink of recession with a very real possibility of a catastrophic default.

Looking at markets around the world, Asian markets are mixed. The Hang Seng reversed some of Monday's gains. Those gains achieved as local authorities in China eased some COVID test requirements.

On Wall Street, stock index futures, right now, are pretty much narrowly mixed here after a down day for stocks. Four hundred eighty- two points off the Dow, and the S&P and the Nasdaq fell more than one percent.

A strong batch of economic news has investors rattled that higher rates are here (cough) -- excuse me, for longer. And a survey from the Business Roundtable shows CEOs more cautious amid persistent domestic and global economic headwinds, including high inflation and rate hikes.

On inflation watch, gas prices fell another two pennies overnight, now sitting at $3.38 a gallon.

Let's bring in Harvard economics professor Ken Rogoff. Ken, so nice to see you this morning.

You know, we've been seeing these hopeful signs that inflation may be peaking, but I'm wondering what you think about wages. Strong wage growth and a strong jobs market -- is that where we should be looking here? Those fatter paychecks, while welcomed for workers, might be a problem in the overall economy?

KEN ROGOFF, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY (via Skype): Well, exactly, Christine. Prices are slowing a bit, though we're still on a rollercoaster, but wages have been coming out stronger than any expected. That's good news except that the Federal Reserve worries that's going to feed back into prices, and so they look determined to keep raising interest rates.

ROMANS: You know, the Fed meets next week and the feeling here is that those monster, one after another 75 basis point rate hikes might be behind us and a more moderate -- I mean, in today's terms, a more moderate 50 basis points next week. But this inflation fight may mean rates stay higher longer, right?

ROGOFF: No, exactly. And those have been monster interest rate increases. We just haven't seen anything like this in many decades. But it is going to slow down but they're at a high level. They're headed higher. And I think, particularly because of the strong wage gains -- which is good but it's going to radiate out into inflation -- we can expect this to keep up for longer than anyone was hoping maybe a couple of months ago.

ROMANS: Yes. In my career, during the Fed and interest rates, I don't ever remember a time where just 50 basis points was seen as a little rate hike.


ROGOFF: (Laughing). Yes, indeed. But --

ROMANS: Let's -- go ahead.

ROGOFF: -- that -- oh, no. I mean, people are going to say oh, shoo, only 50 basis points next week. And, of course, that still half a percent. That's a lot.

ROMANS: Can we talk a little bit about maybe looking into next year and political risk? You just heard that Romans' Numeral $31.4 trillion. We're going to have mixed control of the House and the Senate.

How concerned are you about the political atmosphere around things like the debt ceiling and important business America has to do in terms of paying her bills and doing spending bills, too?

ROGOFF: Well, the debt ceiling is a weapon that Congress uses to try to arrest power from the president. That's really what it's all about.

Obviously, we need to raise the debt ceiling. We can't just suddenly announce that we're defaulting on our debt. It would be catastrophic. It's sort of a game of chicken they seem to want to play. I think we should get rid of it. But I hope we'll have a little bit of cooperation next year, but the history has not been great.

ROMANS: In this economy, every week is a -- kind of a mess of conflicting economic signals, honestly. And I'm wondering if you had to complete the sentence "The U.S. economy is X," how would you complete that sentence?

ROGOFF: Headed toward recession. I think the odds are very high. The economy is very strong but it's unsustainable. The inflation's too high. The Fed is going to keep raising interest rates.

And you mentioned China earlier. Looking at what's going on in Europe. The whole world is sinking into a recession. It's hard for us to stay out of it.

ROMANS: There's no chance that Jay Powell and crew can stick a soft landing? Is that even a narrow possibility?

ROGOFF: Oh, absolutely, it's a narrow possibility. I mean, it's very hard to know what's going to come around the corner. We've never seen anything like this. Yes, it could happen, but I think the window is narrowing and particularly, after last week's wage gains. You have seen the markets react very negatively not just because they think interest rates are going up, but they think a recession is really coming.

Some of the longer-term interest rates have started falling sharply because they think eventually, at the other end of this, the Federal Reserve is not going to be raising rates but they're going to be cutting them.

ROMANS: So, an economy that is strong but unsustainable. That is -- I guess, that's the --

ROGOFF: Exactly.

ROMANS: -- headline there.

All right, Ken Rogoff. So nice to see you. Thank you for getting up early for us. Actually, I know you were already up --

ROGOFF: Nice to see you.

ROMANS: -- this early. So thank you for putting a tie on this early for us. Thanks, Ken.

ROGOFF: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Next, the huge T.V. hit "CHEERS" -- everybody knew her name.


Clip from "CHEERS."


ROMANS: We're remembering Kirstie Alley, next.

And CNN live on the ground in Georgia for Election Day take-two.



ROMANS: All right. Tom Brady leads a record-setting comeback as the Buccaneers take down the Saints on "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL."

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hi, Carolyn.


You know what, we've seen this a time or two, haven't we?


MANNO: He knows how to do it. But for 55 minutes -- I'll tell you what, it was ugly -- really ugly. In fact, Tampa Bay only had a 0.7 percent chance of winning this game, according to Next Gen Stats. But then, Tom Brady said you know what, hold my avocado toast -- I've got this.

Down by 13, Brady just doing what he does. In the last five minutes of this game, the quarterback marching the offense 91 yards down the field. We have seen Tom Brady throw a touchdown to a tight end a time or two. Monday night he connected with rookie tight end Cade Otton for a one-yard score to cut the Saints' lead to six with three minutes left.

The Saints only managed to kill 31 seconds of clock before punting. And when Tampa got the ball back, Brady going to work dissecting the defense, eating up yardage, and eventually finding running back Rachaad White for the 6-yard game-winner with just seconds remaining.

Somehow, some way, the Bucs pull off a 1-point victory improving to 500 atop the NFC South. It was Brady's 44th career fourth-quarter comeback, breaking Peyton Manning's record.


TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: It's just like we drew it up. It's just like we drew it up. You know, we've got a lot of games coming down to the end, and some we've won, some we've lost, which is why we're 6-6. So, we're not where we want to be but we'll keep fighting.


MANNO: It's good to see Tom Brady cracking a joke there -- just like they drew it up.

To the NBA now where Sixers star James Harden made his highly- anticipated return to the starting lineup for the first time since November second because of a foot injury.

Back in his old stomping grounds in Houston, 'The Beard' had a chance to put the game away in overtime. But that potential game-winning three bouncing off the front of the rim.

In double overtime, it was the young Rockets squad that would not be denied behind Jalen Green's 27 points and Kevin Porter Jr.'s 24. Houston outlasting the Sixers for the 132-123 win.

In women's soccer, an overtime thriller to determine the national championship. Top-seeded UCLA rallying past North Carolina to win its second title in program history. The Bruins trailed 2-0 late in the second half before scoring twice in the final 10 minutes to force overtime.

And in the second 10-minute overtime period, Ally Cook had a close- range attempt knocked wide. But Maricarmen Reyes, who is there for the go-ahead score off the rebound.

UCLA, the first women's program to come back from a 2-goal deficit to win it all. Elsewhere in college sports, we don't know who is going to win the Heisman Trophy until Saturday night, but it will be a quarterback. Georgia's Stetson Bennett, TCU's Max Duggan, and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud will all play in the College Football Playoff.

But USC's Caleb Williams is the odds-on favorite to take home the award. His Trojans were eliminated after losing to Utah, Christine, the PAC 12 championship game on Friday. He's a true sophomore so he's going to have to play another season in college before taking his talents to the NFL.

But we will find out who it is.

ROMANS: They're all talented players.


ROMANS: And I watched that Max Duggan in the TCU game this weekend. What a talent --

MANNO: Oh, incredible.

ROMANS: -- machine out there.

MANNO: Yes, they're incredible.

ROMANS: Just amazing.

MANNO: I mean, they're ready to go to the big leagues right now.

ROMANS: All right, very cool.

Carolyn Manno, thank you.

MANNO: Sure.

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