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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

World Cup Semifinal: France Versus Morocco This Afternoon; Netflix Documentary Volume II, "Harry & Meghan," Drops Thursday; NFL, NFLPA Reviewing Handling Of Apparent Head Injury. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 14, 2022 - 05:30   ET




FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): He tells me refused to fight because he was opposed to the war and that his commanders called him a coward and reassigned him to menial labor tasks in the rear echelon.

He says he didn't witness the mass killings the unit is accused of but did witness plenty of crimes against Ukrainian civilians, including looting.

PLEITGEN (on camera): They weren't trying to hide it. They did this very openly.

NIKITA CHIBRIN, RUSSIAN DESERTER: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. They, like, no need to hide this all. Everything want that they see. Whoa, I want this thing. I want this. Everything they look -- and cars, too, made for looting.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And even rape.

CHIBRIN (through translator): I saw rapists running around being chased because they had committed rape. The guys who did rape, I saw them run, then I learned they were rapists. They raped a mother and a daughter.

They were never jailed, just fired -- just like that -- go!

PLEITGEN (voice-over): CNN has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment but we haven't received a reply.

Russia has consistently denied its forces were responsible for crimes against Ukrainian civilians, and President Vladimir Putin issued a decree praising the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade for, quote, "heroism and bold actions."

Nikita Chibrin fled Russia while on leave. He gets emotional when talking about his 4-year-old daughter he left behind.

He says he wants to testify against his commanders before an international court to shed light on what happened in the war he never wanted to be a part of.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, quick hits around the globe right now.

In Peru, at least six people are now dead in protests over ex- President Pedro Castillo's impeachment and arrest last week. In court Tuesday, Castillo denied allegations of conspiracy and rebellion.

South Africa's Parliament votes against impeaching President Cyril Ramaphosa. He was accused of covering up the theft of a large sum of foreign currency from his farm in 2020.

Torrential rains flooding parts of Portugal. Dozens were rescued from a swamped building in Lisbon Monday. More rain is expected today.

The last semifinal of the World Cup today will decide who will play in Sunday's finals as France faces off against Morocco at 2:00 p.m. The team will take on Lionel Messi and the Argentine team that routed Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday.

Let's go to CNN's Amanda Davies live for us in Doha, Qatar. Huge win for Argentina. And now, Messi has confirmed this is his final World Cup, Amanda.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, and Christine, it really feels such a privilege, really, to have been there witnessing that moment last night. Some true magical Messi moments. And particularly, given what he said after the game, really saying he feels as things stand, at least, that Sunday's final will be the final time we see him in an Argentina shirt at this World Cup.

That victory, though, so important not only for him but also the team, taking them through to a World Cup final once again as they close in on that first title since 1986.

Messi, last night, breaking more individual records, very much reopening or some might say answering that greatest of all time debate with how he played out on the pitch. But as far as this team is concerned, the next step is the biggest. They want to go one step further. They want to give Messi his moment.

And this is what he had to say after the game.


LIONEL MESSI, ARGENTINA CAPTAIN (through translator): We have been enjoying it a lot since we arrived at this World Cup. Even though we had a losing start, as we said at the time, we were confident in this group. We were going to move forward.

We asked people to trust because we knew what we are and this group is crazy -- and, well, we did it. We are going to play one more final. Argentina is in a world final and, well, let's enjoy all of this.


DAVIES: Yes, so much more confidence and belief in this side. You've really seen them grow over the course of their six matches here in this tournament.

But the question here today is will it be Morocco, the fairytale team of this tournament, or the defending champion, France, lining up to face them in Sunday's final? The atmosphere really building. We can hear it already in the suite behind us. Not exactly sure on numbers but talk of 40,000 Moroccans having traveled here to be here for their historic moment -- the first African, first Arab nation into the semifinal of a World Cup.

The odds are stacked against them. The support, though, very much in their favor as, of course, are their mothers. We've seen those incredible pictures of the Moroccan players and their parents celebrating in the stands.

Despite the odds being against them, so much confidence that maybe, just maybe, they can spring one more surprise and make it into Sunday's final.


ROMANS: All right, Amanda. Thank you so much for that. We'll all be watching at 2:00 p.m. eastern. Thank you.

All right, two active Hawaiian volcanoes suddenly stop erupting at the very same time -- coincidence? And could TikTok soon be banned in America?



DUKE OF SUSSEX: I've always felt as though this was a fight worth fighting for.


ROMANS: That's Prince Harry speaking from the next installment of the Netflix documentary "HARRY & MEGHAN" set to drop on Thursday.


The series has revived controversy about racism in the British media and within the royal family.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more on what to expect in the next three episodes.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a union that brought hope of change -- an outsider and woman of color breaking through to the very highest level of British society. The couple say systemic racism deep-rooted in the U.K.'s media and monarchy, both elite and predominantly white institutions, left them isolated and unheard.

In a new Netflix documentary, they share their experiences.

DUKE OF SUSSEX: Why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected? And I said the difference here is the race element.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Their wedding, in 2019, was a celebration of Britain's multiculturalism.

KAREN GIBSON, CHOIR CONDUCTOR AT SUSSEX'S WEDDING: There was a sense of us representing. There was that kind of understanding that we weren't just standing there for ourselves. That we were standing there for communities of color.

DUKE OF SUSSEX: I don't know. I just --

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But it's the couple's exit from royal duties and later, a bombshell Oprah interview to explain the move, that sparked controversy.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Did you leave the country because of racism?

DUKE OF SUSSEX: It was a large -- it was a large part of it.

DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: And if a member of this family will comfortably say we've all had to deal with things that are rude. Rude and racist are not the same.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Talk of race and racism, often seen as a taboo topic in the U.K., prompted a reckoning for some. For others, defensiveness -- even anger.

PIERS MORGAN, BRITISH BROADCASTER: This is a 2-hour trash-a-thon.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Piers Morgan, a talk T.V. host, stormed off the set --

MORGAN: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what? That's pathetic.

MORGAN: You can (INAUDIBLE), but not mine. See you later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): -- after a series of rants against Markle.

And the U.K. Society of Editors issued a blanket refusal to acknowledge any bigotry at any level in the press. Critics called the statement willful ignorance. Buckingham Palace said they would address the matter behind closed doors.

PRINCE WILLIAM: No, I haven't spoken to him yet, but I will do.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But Prince William made a public and rare off-the-cuff remark.

PRINCE WILLIAM: No, we're very much not a racist family.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But for many others, the first modern royal of color articulated a lived experience that resonated at a time of racial reckoning. In 2020, the U.K. saw huge demonstrations that demanded Britain confront institutional inequality. The Sussexes say they're driven by that same call to action.

DUKE OF SUSSEX: There is a huge level of unconscious bias. It's educational, it's awareness, and it's a constant -- it's a constant work in -- work in progress.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Now, unbound by the monarchy, the couple are lending their voice to Britain's antiracism movement and aggravating its detractors.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


ROMANS: All right, 10 years to the day since the Sandy Hook school shooting. A survivor shares her story on "CNN THIS MORNING."

And next, dollars, cents, and inflation. Families stretching their budgets for groceries and more.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, 396. That's 396 dollars more the average American household is spending each month to buy the same goods and services it bought a year ago. That 7.1 percent annual inflation rate is painfully high, but it is cooling from the extra $493 a month that American households were paying more in June when the rate was 9.1 percent.

Looking at markets around the world right now, European markets are lower a little bit this morning. The European central bank and Bank of England will announce interest rate hikes later in the week.

On Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour are leaning down just a little bit, but very indecisive.

Stocks rallied after the release of a cooler-than-expected inflation report. The Dow was up as much as 700 points before ending the day up more than 100. The latest CPI report shows consumer prices up 7.1 percent over the past year -- still not normal but down from the peak. It may be evidence the Fed's medicine is working. The Fed is expected to raise rates another half point today.

On inflation watch as well, gas prices fell by four cents overnight, now at $3.21 a gallon.

Let's bring in Kayla Bruun, economic analyst at Morning Consult. Good morning, Kayla.

Cooling but still not normal inflation. Can we saw inflation has peaked here?

KAYLA BRUUN, ECONOMIC ANALYST, MORNING CONSULT (via Webex by Cisco): Good morning, and thanks for having me on.

It's certainly looking that way. And I agree with you and I agree with the markets it was -- it was good news yesterday with the CPI report -- seeing that inflation is cooling and actually a little bit more than most were even expecting it to. So, certainly, still too high.

But the fact that inflation overall has come down -- and even more importantly for me, that core factor, which is a bit stickier and more indicative of where prices are heading and where they're likely to stay -- that core component also slowed more than expected from 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent.

So both topline and core have peaked and that's a very good sign.

ROMANS: I know. If you had told me a couple of years ago that we'd be saying that a 7.1 percent annual inflation rate was cool, I never would have imagined it. But the pandemic has really screwed everything up here.

Six months now into the Fed's campaign to wrestle inflation, I guess, back to a more normal level. Could we say the Fed's rate hikes are working?

BRUUN: In my view, it looks like they are. Some of this likely would have happened on its own to some extent, particularly with goods. That's sort of -- that's -- there -- with supply chain issues easing, that's definitely helped. And then also, just with, sort of, the pandemic demand that was -- initially, it was a little bit more concentrated in goods during the pandemic. In 2022, as we got more back to normal, that demand was cooling.


So with goods prices, some of that's been happening on its own. But with housing, for example, I think that that's definitely something that the Fed has had a hand in because interest rates have really had a massive impact there very quickly.

ROMANS: Yes. We've seen this -- we're going to get today another rate hike, the seventh of the year. We're expecting a half a point. We get that decision at 2:00 p.m. eastern.

We really want to see what Fed members think about how long they will keep rates high, right? The so-called -- I don't want to get too wonky, but the so-called dot plot. We want to see kind of behind the scenes what they're thinking. That's where there will be news today, probably.

BRUUN: Yes. And like I said, this number yesterday was -- it was a welcome -- it was welcome news. It was a little bit even better news than many were expecting. But for this meeting this week, I wouldn't see that as such a shocking number that it would change a lot of minds immediately.

But you're right. I think the bigger question is more down the line. Now that we are heading in the right direction, how much intervention is the right amount without going too far?

ROMANS: Yes. And for -- you know, for consumers who are watching us right now, higher interest rates -- months now of higher interest rates -- you know, staying high into next year -- that's already cooling the housing market.

But do you expect to see it cooling other parts of the economy? You're going to be paying more for credit cards, right? You're paying more for a new home loan or a new car loan. I mean, do you expect to see all of those rate hikes start to really cool the overall economy?

BRUUN: That's a great question and it's absolutely something to watch. I think the two areas of the economy that I'm really going to be watching heading into 2023 is the labor market, partly due to that. We've already seen some slowdown in hiring. And unemployment has come up a little bit, but it's stayed very healthy and very strong.

That's a good thing because it's supporting the economy, but it's also potentially -- with wage growth pretty strong, it's also potentially supporting inflation with the services component. So the labor market is really key to watch --


BRUUN: -- for the trajectory of inflation and growth.

And then separately, consumer spending. Consumer spending is going to be key to whether or not we can achieve this soft landing.

ROMANS: Right. And, I mean, even the predictions of a -- of a recession that you hear from some people. It's the weirdest recession you've ever heard of with an unemployment rate near a 50-year low and consumers still spending and still money in their pockets.

Kayla Bruun, nice to see you. Thank you so much. I know you'll be watching this afternoon when the Fed chief makes that announcement. Thank you.

BRUUN: Thank you. ROMANS: All right, deal or no deal. Some Republicans say they have agreed on terms to stop a government shutdown. But one key Republican says hell, no.

And just when you need it the most, children's painkillers hard to find as flu season hits.



ROMANS: The NFL and its Players Association are reviewing why an apparent head injury seemingly went unnoticed by medical staff and spotters during Monday night's game.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy. What's this about?


So, earlier this season, the NFL vowed to update its concussion protocols after Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a frightening head injury but then came back into the game.

And on Monday night, the spotters just messed up again. Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker appeared shaky on his feet after a blow to the head, so no one stopped play to get him out. So, Parker's teammate, Nelson Agholor, took it into his own hands to notify the officials and get Parker off the field.

A league spokesman tells CNN that the NFL is working to understand the sequence of events.

Now, yesterday, Parker blasted the league on Instagram, posting "Get on y'alls (expletive) job NFL. Thankful my brother was aware of the situation."

All right, to the NBA where the Celtics and Lakers added another chapter to their rivalry. It looked like Boston was going to cruise to a victory when it led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.

But L.A. didn't quit. The Lakers -- they went on a 31-5 run to lead by as much as 13 points late in the fourth quarter. LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 70 points on the night.

The Celtics, though -- they would tie it up in the final seconds with a fadeaway jumper here by Jayson Tatum. He finished with a game-high 44.

The game went to overtime and the Celtics would end up pulling away to win this one by a final 122-118.

Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, only the third player in NHL history to score 800 goals, joining Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. The Capitals star netting a hat trick last night to reach the milestone. The Capitals beat the Blackhawks 7-3. And Ovechkin making a young fan's night on the way off the ice, giving him his stick. That wasn't the stick he scored number 800 with but still, pretty awesome for that fan.

All right, finally, Mississippi State says they will play in their bowl game on January second to honor their head coach Mike Leach, who passed away on Monday due to complications related to a heart condition. Fans in Starkville making a memorial for Leach outside the stadium yesterday.

Leach was arguably the most entertaining coach in sports history. So many amazing interviews. And check out Leach doing the weather back when he coached at Texas Tech.


MIKE LEACH, THEN-HEAD COACH AT TEXAS TECH: The thing on the screen there is just a little too sure of it for my taste. Me, personally, expect sun. Go out there and expect sun and have a good time. And if you run into the bad stuff, don't let that hamper your day. Don't be a coward. Stay out in it and still enjoy the day.

This weather report here -- what do I know? I'm a football coach. I suggest you go out and do what I do. Get out of bed, go outside, then you know.


SCHOLES: Yes. And Christine, that was at my old station KAMC.


SCHOLES: I interviewed Leach many times. An amazing person.