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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Kyiv Dismisses Russian Claim Of Killing 600 Ukrainian Soldiers; China Reopens Border After Years Of COVID Restrictions; Rosewood, Florida Marks 100 Years Since Horrific Race Massacre. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 09, 2023 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Ukraine officials are dismissing Russia's claim that it killed more than 600 Ukrainian troops in an attack last week. They're calling the claim simply nonsense.

Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. This is where the attack is supposed to have happened. But, Ben, you're there on the ground. Are there any signs of a huge Russian there recently, or is this Russian disinformation for a domestic audience?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me tell you what we know, Christine.

At about eight minutes past 11 on Saturday evening, which coincided just eight minutes after the expiration of Russia's unilateral ceasefire, we heard some very large explosions here in Kramatorsk. Now, this is one of the sites of those explosions. Apparently, an S- 300 anti-aircraft missile was used here.

Now, right in front of me, this is a high school -- a high school that hasn't been in session, essentially, for months, basically going back to the beginning of the war. Now, our crew went inside just hours later. What they saw was desks and blackboards, and whatnot -- lots of broken glass. But no sign whatsoever of any casualties.

Now, if we just step over here, my cameraman Tom Nicholson will show you it's a very large crater. Now what we see are some municipal workers are inside throwing debris down into this pit.

But Ukrainian officials have flatly denied it. Now, it's believed the Russian strike was in revenge for a Ukrainian strike on a vocational school in Makiivka in the Donetsk, which even according to Russian sources, official sources killed 89 of their soldiers. The Ukrainians saying as many as 400 were killed in that strike and 300 wounded.

But as I said, all evidence points to a baseless claim by the Russians -- an attempt to save face --


WEDEMAN: -- after that very deadly strike just hours after midnight on New Year's Day -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Ben Wedeman for us -- thank you so much -- on the ground with the facts. Thanks.

OK, China has reopened to international travelers, lifting almost all of its COVID-era border restrictions after years of self-imposed isolation. It comes as China is experiencing a surge in COVID cases.

CNN's Steven Jiang live in Beijing for us. And, Steven, good morning. What prompted China's move to reopen its borders and keep them open despite this COVID surge?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Christine, it depends on who you ask. Officials here obviously insist they did this proactively because they have always adopted a quote-unquote scientific approach to the evolving pandemic. But others would certainly point to those widespread protests against an increasingly unsustainable zero-COVID policy back in November. Those protests, at the very minimum, providing the leadership with a political off-ramp from the policy.

But the way they did it -- that sudden U-turn without much preparation both in terms of medical resources but also in terms of government messaging has resulted in surging infections and deaths, both which not being reflected in official government data. And that lack of transparency obviously being noted both around the world but here at home as well.

That's why the reopening border is actually being met with very mixed feelings from the public. Some welcoming it with open arms, especially those separated from loved ones for a long time, and also those with desire or need to travel abroad. But others, after being told their government state media for three years how scary the virus was and how disastrous other governments' response had been, remain very skeptical, very -- even very angry with the reopening.

But the biggest concern right now is actually with domestic travel with millions of Chinese again on the move to go home ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. Remember, this is the first time this has happened in three years and with likely, consequences being the virus being brought from wealthy cities to the vast countryside where the medical resources are very much lacking. So that is potentially going to cause even more deadly consequences with global implications -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Steven Jiang in Beijing. Thank you so much.

All right, quick hits around the globe right now.

Iran executing two men this weekend in connection with nationwide anti-regime protests. Iranian officials say they were convicted of killing a member of the country's paramilitary force in November.

Forty people were killed and many others injured in a bus crash in Senegal Sunday. The West African nation will observe three days of national mourning for those victims. An Iranian national detained in Germany on suspicion of planning a

terror attack. Police say the suspect had cyanide and ricin in preparation for a quote "Islamist-motivated attack."


All right, ahead, here's the 411. Millions of Americans won't be able to reach an operator from their home phone soon.

And a historic space launch set for today -- the first ever from the U.K.


ROMANS: Welcome back.

The first week of January marks 100 years since the horrific Rosewood massacre in central Florida. An angry white mob decimated a Black community. That resulted in the loss of economic opportunity and inequality for generations of people of color.

CNN's Nadia Romero has more.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over the past few years, growing efforts to unearth the tragedies of racial terror against Black Americans by fighting for awareness and atonement.

RAGHAN PICKETT, ROSEWOOD DESCENDANT: It was not a secret. So we always attended the family reunions and it was something that was always shared.

ROMERO (voice-over): Raghan Pickett says her whole life she's heard the traumatic tales of what happened in Rosewood, Florida in 1923 and the town's Black residents under siege by an angry white mob after a white woman said she was assaulted by a Black man. Homes and businesses burned down. Black families lynched, targeted, and torn apart.


One survivor described the horrific events for CBS "60 MINUTES" in 1983.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know they killed my aunt, and they killed my grandaddy. Made my grandaddy dug his hole, and he didn't have but one arm. But they made him dug his own grave. And he prayed, and they shot him backwards in the grave.

PICKETT: How many people actually died? Documented, we know seven people, but we know there had to be more. We didn't -- we don't really know exactly where everybody went.

ROMERO (voice-over): Pickett's great-granduncle, a survivor of Rosewood who fled to safety by train. Old newspaper articles speak of negro homes raided and burned down. Those hiding in the woods fleeing the deadly white mob. Calling the lynchings and terrorization of the Black residents a quote "clash between whites and blacks," followed by a "special grand jury failing to return indictments."

Florida State University Professor Maxine Jones calls it an intentional whitewashing of history to hide the horrors of Rosewood.

MAXINE JONES, PROFESSOR, FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY: I think we should feel uncomfortable about certain aspects of our history. But this is our history.

ROMERO (voice-over): In 1994, Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles signed a bill to give $150,000 to survivors and scholarships to their descendants, like Pickett, who now attends college about 140 miles from where her family's history intersects with a painful past.

Many saw the passing of a law as a big moment of reckoning.

JONES: I'm glad that the State of Florida acknowledged that Rosewood happened and decided to compensate the families. Again, you can't put a price on what these people lost, the generational trauma.

ROMERO (voice-over): Two generations later, Jonathan Barry-Blocker, a descendant of a Rosewood survivor, says his grandfather was separated from his family during the terror. Some family members were never reunited again. Burying his painful memories by refusing to ever speak about what happened.

JONATHAN BARRY-BLOCKER, ROSEWOOD DESCENDANT: I didn't learn about his connection to Rosewood until I was 13 when the movie came out.

Clip from 1997's "Rosewood."

BLOCKER: My father sat me down and informed us that -- or informed me that people may ask questions in light of this movie. And I didn't know why, and he said well, your grandfather was involved in the event.

Clip from 1997's "Rosewood."

ROMERO (voice-over): The 1997 movie "Rosewood" -- this movie, the first time Blocker learned what he says had been haunting his grandfather.

BLOCKER: It wasn't a full recounting of events but the gist was someone lied. Someone can destroy a whole community of lives. Someone actually caused people to lose lives violently and suffer violence. And I just thought that was unconscionable.

ROMERO (voice-over): Blocker says his grandfather applied for compensation from the state but was denied because he couldn't prove he owned land in Rosewood.

Fearing death, Blocker's grandfather, along with many of the other survivors, never returned to Rosewood and never reclaimed property and land. A loss back then still impacting their families today.

BLOCKER: Did we own land? Could we have owned land? Could we have amassed land? Could we have built well? What would that look like a generation or two generations down?

What opportunities might we have pursued different than what we've pursued now? Might we be further along in our, maybe, generational goals?

ROMERO (voice-over): Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.


ROMANS: All right, Nadia. Thank you for that.

Here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

President Biden will meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later today. A two- day North American Leaders' Summit begins in Mexico.

More than 7,000 nurses will likely be on the picket line in New York City. The deadline to reach a deal is about 15 minutes from now at 6:00 a.m.

Today, Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit will become the first-ever orbital satellite launch from the U.K. A modified Boeing 747 will release a rocket and take nine satellites high above the Earth.

Coming up, California reeling from torrential downpours and damaging winds. More is on the way.

And next, a new vaccine for honey bees.



ROMANS: All right. Your Romans' Numeral this morning, 411. The number that means information going off the hook for millions of callers. Starting this month, people with AT&T digital home phones through cable or Wi-Fi will not be able to dial 411 or zero to get an operator. The company is telling customers to Google phone numbers instead. Wired home phones can still reach an operator.

All right, looking at markets around the world right now, you can see Asian shares strongly higher. Europe has opened mixed. And on Wall Street, stock index futures leaning up after surging Friday on signs that inflation may be cooling and ending the first week of the new year in positive territory.

A crucial jobs report showed wage growth slowed in December. Now investors are betting the Federal Reserve may not need another aggressive rate hike next month.

Meanwhile, gas prices have been falling due to a sharp drop in crude oil prices. The concern now is that the economy could dip into a recession sometime this year. If that happens, Wall Street is hoping it will be short and mild.

Let's bring in Lori Bettinger, president of BancAlliance. So nice to see you.

You know, we have been hearing all of this concern about maybe a recession this year. But you look at job creation in 2022 -- the second-strongest year of job creation in history. Four and a half million jobs created.

But it was in the wages that Wall Street was so happy, right, on Friday? I mean, it's showing signs of peaking?

LORI BETTINGER, PRESIDENT, BANCALLIANCE, FORMER DIRECTOR, TROUBLED ASSET RELIEF PROGRAM (via Webex by Cisco): Absolutely. You know, this was a good jobs report. And I think that we've learned over the past months a report that looks good on its face can sometimes then be an immediate cause of concern.


Because maybe things are good because there's too much consumer demand and prices are rising too quickly, or in the case of the job report, that the job market is just so strong that people are having to pay salaries higher and higher, which causes the wage inflation.

So, this report seemed a little bit like I -- you know, we're hearing a lot of this term the 'Goldilocks Report' -- strong job market but maybe wage inflation is starting to slow, which would be great for our economy heading into 2023.

ROMANS: All right. So a strong year but starting to slow, and that's what we want to see.

We're going to get a reading on consumer prices later this week and I think recent evidence has been inflation might be peaking. What are you expecting to see?

BETTINGER: I think that's true. We've seen that towards the end of 2022.

And this cool (PH) question is will the demand just soften enough that -- you know, we've seen the peak with inflation and it's going to come down slowly. But will it come down slowly enough for the -- or quickly enough for the Federal Reserve to feel like they don't have to act as much perhaps as market participants? We're thinking that they would and that's the big question.

But I think the Federal Reserve has been really consistent. We will do whatever we need to fight inflation. And we would rather err on the side, in a way, of overcorrecting --

ROMANS: Right.

BETTINGER: -- than letting inflation linger for years and years. ROMANS: So do you expect the Fed to start slowing down then in these rate hikes?

BETTINGER: I certainly think it's a possibility. But as we've heard, I think that even though we've seen good trends for a couple months or in a couple of reports, the Federal Reserve has said that's not enough. A few months of improvement -- yes, it's cause for some optimism. But we're not going to sort of cry victory and stop with this campaign of raising rates.

So I think we're going to continue to see increase. The magnitude, I think, is a big question.


BETTINGER: How much they raise interest rates by.

ROMANS: Is -- Lori, is a soft landing possible? I mean, if all these rate hikes operate on a lag in the economy, right --


ROMANS: -- there's a wall of tightening that still needs to hit.

BETTINGER: Yes, absolutely.

I do think a soft landing is possible. I think it's a difficult thing for any policymaker to try and achieve. And so much of it depends on consumer confidence, and we hear about this over and over. But how do we all feel as American customers and households? Do we keep making purchases and just pull back a little bit?

In this jobs report we saw that, once again, leisure and hospitality was leading the way in terms of job creation. Do we continue to take vacations and go out to eat, or do we think to ourselves hmm, we're reading about layoffs, even if it's not necessarily affecting these numbers, and we're going to pull back a little? And that is something to me that's just really hard to quantify.

ROMANS: Yes. This whole post -- you know, post-COVID shutdown economy has been hard to quantify, right? We're all trying to find sort of --


ROMANS: -- our footing in this very unusual set of circumstances.

Lori Bettinger, president of BancAlliance. So nice to see you this Monday morning. Thank you.

BETTINGER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

An angry mob storms Congress. Allegations of a rigged election -- deja vu. This time, it's in Brazil.

And President Biden's first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border as president. Why it has drawn criticism from both parties.



ROMANS: Our top of the morning, the top movies at the box office right now.


Clip from "Avatar: The Way of Water."


ROMANS: "Avatar: The Way of Water" at number one. The hit sequel earned $45 million in its fourth weekend -- a rarity, especially since the pandemic.


Clip from "M3GAN."


ROMANS: That's "M3GAN" at number two. The horror movie about a robot doll beating expectations with a $30 million opening.


Clip from "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish."


ROMANS: "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" comes in at number three. Yes, we're all going to the movies again.

All right. The U.S. approving the first-ever vaccine for honey bees. The Agriculture Department granting a conditional license for the vaccine that will be used to fight American foulbrood. It's an aggressive bacterial disease. It could pave the way for controlling a range of viruses and pests that have decimated the honey bee population.

This morning, California bracing for more severe storms after a week now of heavy rain and gale-force winds. The storm is knocking out power to more than half a million customers in Sacramento. Governor Gavin Newsom says he's asking the White House for an emergency FEMA declaration.

Let's get right to meteorologist Jennifer Gray. Who is going to get the worst of this, Jennifer

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we're really seeing the rain come down across central California and northern California as well, but you can see the entire state covered in rain and high elevations getting snow. This is really significant because we have seen a series of these --

what we call atmospheric rivers -- impact California since Christmas week. And so, one after another. It's really compounding the impact.

We're seeing high wind warnings, wind advisories in effect. We're also winter storm alerts with this, winter storm watches.

And then you also have flood alerts. We're going to see widespread flooding. Roads are going to be impassable. Multiple mud or landslides are expected. And we're also going to see rapid rises in rivers and creeks.

So this is going to be a significant event. It's going to last today and then lingering into tomorrow. But you can see a moderate risk of extreme rainfall across much of California.

And from this map, we're just seeing these plumes of moisture come on shore, like I mentioned, one after another. We're going to continue to see it this week -- today and tomorrow. And it doesn't look like this moisture is going to go away anytime soon, so we could see even more. And as you can see, Christine, that rain just coming on in.

ROMANS: Yes, it sure is.