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Ukraine Strikes Building Where Russian Attack Drones Were Launched; China Halts Visas For South Koreans And Japanese In COVID Retaliation; J.J. Watt Tears Up Watching Tribute Before Final NFL Game. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 11, 2023 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Intense fighting continues right now in the eastern regions of Ukraine, including near the city of Kreminna.

CNN is on the front there with a Ukrainian artillery unit. Here's Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Commander Maksimilian, or just Max as he's known, is finalizing the coordinates for a strike on the Russian-occupied town of Kreminna.

Before the war, Max was an English teacher.

His 43rd artillery brigade has already seen action in the battles of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and now, Donbas. Their target today, a building in Kreminna from where, he says, attack drones are launched against Ukrainian forces.

WEDEMAN (on camera): This artillery system is known as a Pion. That's a Soviet-era artillery system -- 203 millimeters. The rounds weigh 100 kilos -- 220 pounds. This is a system used both by the Russians and the Ukrainians.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The cold here chills to the bone, making this work all the more difficult.

To protect against Russian drones, they deployed a special weapon that depletes drone batteries. First, the round goes into the barrel, then the core dye, and the trigger cord is pulled, sending the massive round hurtling toward its target 18 kilometers, around 11 miles away. It fires again and again.

A forward spotter radios Max that the target has been hit. He tells his men to use shrapnel rounds to finish the job.

MAKSIMILIAN "MAX", 43RD ARTILLERY BRIGADE: We damaged it. We destroyed the building where they hide. And I suppose they will not make problems for us in the future.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A small victory in a big war.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, near Kreminna, Eastern Ukraine.


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

China has stopped issuing visas to visitors from South Korea and Japan. Beijing is retaliating against the recent restrictions for Chinese travelers to those countries, calling the rules discriminatory.

Let's go to CNN's Marc Stewart live in Hong Kong for us. Good morning, Mark. So nice to see you.

A number of countries now mandate COVID testing for Chinese travelers. They cite concerns over the surge of infections and limited data out of China. What can you tell us about this?

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely -- always good to see you as well, Christine.

So, obviously, Japan and South Korea are getting attention for their travel restrictions toward Chinese travelers, but this is a much bigger story. About a dozen countries around the world have placed restrictions on Chinese travelers -- again, because of the mistrust about the extent of the COVID problem. China has said there are 37 cases but pictures and reporting on the ground obviously suggest otherwise.

With all of that said, many countries and many cities, such as Hong Kong, are welcoming Chinese travelers -- this new back and forth. These restrictions have been lifted so travelers can come here to Hong Kong. And Chinese tourists are very important to a city like Hong Kong.

As you well know, China is the world's second-largest economy. More than a billion people live there. And in 2019, before the pandemic, Chinese tourists didn't just spend millions of dollars around the world, they spent billions of dollars around the world.

So whether you're here in Asia, the United States, or Europe, this opening -- this new two-way street of tourism certainly could be a big economic jolt at a time when many economies simply feel like they are in peril, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Marc Stewart from Hong Kong. Thank you so much. Talk to you soon.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

Brazil's new president, Lula da Silva, is criticizing police conduct after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro attacked the Supreme Court, presidential palace, and Congress. Footage appears to show security forces standing back as protesters breach the buildings.

Cardinal George Pell has died at 81 from cardiac arrest. He was the most senior Catholic official to be convicted of child sex abuse. Pell served 13 months before the conviction was overturned in 2020.

The last 10 senators in Haiti's Parliament have officially left office, leaving the country with no elected officials. Armed gangs control much of the capital in the middle of a malnutrition crisis and cholera outbreak.

Just ahead, more bad news for Bed Bath & Beyond as bankruptcy looms there. And Damar Hamlin's recovery. What's next for him and the NFL?



ROMANS: All right. Doctors in Buffalo believe Bills safety Damar Hamlin could be released from the hospital as soon as today.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, just an amazing recovery considering where he was a week ago.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly is amazing, Christine. Good morning to you.

This is just more good news for the Buffalo Bills who are getting set to take on the Dolphins this Sunday in the opening round of the NFL Playoffs. And there's a chance, if things keep progressing, Hamlin could actually end up being at that game on Sunday.

Doctors are finishing tests and trying to determine whether there were any preexisting conditions that played a role in Hamlin's collapse on "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL" against the Bengals. Normal recovery from a cardiac arrest can be measured in weeks to months, but the 24-year-old is beating that timeline in every stage of his recovery so far.

All right, to the NBA where Steph Curry was back in the lineup for the Warriors last night after missing 11 games with that shoulder injury. Curry dropping 24 points in just 31 minutes against the Suns, but it was not enough.


Phoenix ended up beating Golden State for the third time this season -- 125-113 the final. That snapped a season-worst six-game losing streak for Phoenix.

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, setting an NBA record last night against the Thunder. The Heat going 40 for 40 from the free throw line, breaking the Jazz's record of 39 for 39 back in 1982. Jimmy Butler made 23 of them and also got an "and one" with just 12 seconds to go to put the Heat in the lead, as Miami won that game 112-111.

All right, has a player ever agreed to a massive contract with three different teams in one off-season? Well, shortstop Carlos Correa now has, agreeing to a deal to return to the Twins yesterday. That deal is reportedly for six years and $200 million.

And this comes after Correa had agreed to a 13-year deal with the Giants that fell through due to concerns about his physical. Then that same thing happened with the Mets on a 12-year deal.

The agreement with the Twins is pending a physical but it's likely to go through since that deal is only for six years.

All right, the back-to-back college football national champion Georgia Bulldogs are back home. The team's plane landed in Atlanta yesterday afternoon after they crushed TCU in the title game Monday night.

The celebration far from over. On Saturday, the champs are going to get a parade through the streets of Athens, ending with a huge rally at Sanford Stadium.

All right. And finally, J.J. Watt played the last game of his Hall of Fame career on Sunday, finishing in vintage J.J. Watt style, recording two sacks against the 49ers.

But before the game, Cardinals coaches surprised the superstar with an emotional tribute featuring his family and some NFL legends.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Man, you were a pain in my ass for a long time. It was an honor to share the field with you.

DEREK WATT, FULLBACK, PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Congrats on your retirement and Hall of Fame career, Jage. It's been so special having a front-row seat to it all and I couldn't be more proud of you. Love you, bro.

JOHN WATT, J.J. WATT'S FATHER: I got to be a big part of it for your first journey back in the day when I was your coach, and it's been a pleasure to watch you ever since. It's kind of sad to see it come to your last game but you have so many great things ahead of you that I'm looking forward to what the future brings for you, Kealia, and Koa.

KEALIA WATT, J.J. WATT'S WIFE: I know Koa will be so proud to be your son.


SCHOLES: And you can watch more on tonight's episode of "HARD KNOCKS," Christine, at 10:00 eastern, HBO-HBO Max.

And J.J. said that was truly one of the greatest gifts --


SCHOLES: -- he's ever received and he's going to cherish it forever. He was definitely one of the best to ever do it --


SCHOLES: -- on and off the field. You can't forget all that he did for the city of Houston after the hurricanes and whatnot.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

SCHOLES: Just one of the best ever.

ROMANS: All right. We wish him the best.

All right, nice to see you, Andy. Thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

The GOP's steering panel will pick members of the most powerful committees in the House later this morning. It's part of the deal Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached with holdouts to give some of them key committee assignments.

Classes will resume today at the University of Idaho. It's been less than two weeks since a suspect was charged with the murders of four students there.

Goldman Sachs is about to start laying off as many as 3,200 employees. More than a third of the cuts are expected at the trading and banking units.

Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," nonstop heavy rain, damaging winds, and devastating floods. More on the catastrophe across California.

And next, right here, imagine being just years from retirement only to have the government move the goalpost.



ROMANS: All right. Your Romans' Numeral this morning, 64. The French government wants to raise the retirement age there to 64. It's just 62 right now. Imagine being just months away and finding out you have to work two more years. Sixty-two is pretty young, right? It's still three years earlier than the U.S. retirement age.

France is dealing with a pension funding deficit. This was something that President Macron campaigned on and then tried to act on in 2019. And, of course, it sparked strikes around the country. Labor unions have already called for more protests to start next week against raising the retirement age to 64.

Looking at markets around the world right now, you can see Asian shares closed mix. Europe has opened higher.

And on Wall Street, stock index futures this morning also leaning up after a positive day yesterday. There was, though, this clear warning from the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell about the pace of interest rates ahead.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: Restoring price stability when inflation is high can require measures that are not popular in the short term as we raise interest rates to slow the economy. The absence of direct political control over our decisions allows us to take these necessary measures without considering short-term political factors.


ROMANS: Meanwhile, on a positive sign for inflation, online prices dropped 1.6 percent in December from a year ago. Retailers are cutting prices to lure customers.

And looking at gas prices, not expected to skyrocket again this year. At least that's the forecast from GasBuddy. GasBuddy says the yearly national average price of gas in 2023 will drop nearly 50 cents per gallon compared to 2022.

Wells Fargo plans to stop taking on new mortgage customers. The company will now focus on home lending for its bank customers and minority home buyers. Wells Fargo was one of the biggest mortgage companies for years but it has landed in trouble with regulators. Last month it was slapped with a record $1.7 billion fine for harmful management practices.

All right, we knew Bed Bath & Beyond was in trouble. Now we know just how much trouble.

CNN's retail reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn is here. What did the company say yesterday, Nathaniel?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Right. So, Bed Bath & Beyond said that last quarter, during the runup to the holidays, sales plunged 33 percent and its losses were up 42 percent. So it really looks like we're heading for a bankruptcy for Bed Bath & Beyond this year. And that would have a huge impact, obviously, on the company but also the broader retail sector.

Bed Bath & Beyond has about 950 stores, 30,000 employees, and we would be looking at major closures and mass layoffs.

ROMANS: Yes, major closures and layoffs there at Bed Bath & Beyond.


And Walmart now wants this -- wants to let customers text and order, what, milk and diapers? Tell me how that would work.

MEYERSOHN: So, Walmart's trying to make texting the next big thing in shopping. It has a new feature called "Text to Shop." It's free to download. It's linked to your account. And you text -- you're basically just texting for milk, and diapers, and groceries, and you schedule a time for pickup or delivery.

And I think the big question is who is asking for this? Is shopping on the app or online not convenient enough that now we have to start texting for it? It reminds me a little bit of people were predicting that shopping by -- with Alexa and through your voice was going to be really popular, but is anybody asking Alexa to order them milk or groceries?

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right, talk to me about clothing and meal kit subscriptions. They're having a little bit of trouble.

MEYERSOHN: Right. So, a couple of years ago, clothing and meal kit subscriptions like Stitch Fix, Birchbox, Blue Apron -- these were all the rage. Everybody wanted a subscription.

But now they're starting to slow down. There's so much competition. The market is kind of oversaturated. You have a subscription for everything. I even saw you can order tea for a subscription --

ROMANS: (Laughing).

MEYERSOHN: -- now -- yes.

And so, customers are starting to pull back because of all the competition and also because of inflation.


MEYERSOHN: And it's really hard for these companies to make money when they're just delivering.

ROMANS: Interesting.

And now, two of my kids got Crocs for Christmas. Santa brought them. But this is polarizing in America, but it's booming.

MEYERSOHN: It's the brand that Americans love to hate the most. And -- but Crocs is booming.

Last year, it reported record sales up 53 percent. And it said it's going to -- yesterday, that its success is going to continue this year, projecting sales up to 13 percent.

And they've done a really good job appealing to millennials and Gen Z with partnerships with people like Post Malone and Bad Bunny. And it really reflects the people dressing more casually -- you know, wearing Crocs around the house or to go get a bite to eat.

I don't think you're going to see me wearing Crocs around the office, Christine.

ROMANS: I -- you know, they're pretty ugly but you can also personalize them. And then I spent an extra 25 bucks personalizing with these little things that you plug into them. I mean, it's -- and they're not cheap. What -- they're like 40 bucks a pair?

MEYERSOHN: Well, they're -- and it's a good -- it's a solid price point. It's not too -- it's not going to break the bank and they last -- they last a good bit of time. So people really like them.

ROMANS: And they're pretty ugly but good ugly, I guess.


ROMANS: All right, Nathaniel Meyersohn -- nice to see you -- CNN retail reporter. Thank you.

All right, a hacksaw, blood stains, and more. The mounting evidence police say they have in the search for a missing Massachusetts mom ahead.

And Prince Harry with Stephen Colbert after the release of his explosive new memoir. How he addressed the scandals he exposed coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."



ROMANS: All right. Our Top of the Morning, the top U.S. cities for traffic congestion.

Chicago is number one. The average driver there spent 155 hours stuck in traffic delays last year. Worldwide, only London is worse than Chicago.

Number two in the U.S., Boston. Drivers there wasted 134 hours staring at the car in front of them.

Coming in third, New York City. Drivers lost 117 hours there and probably honked their horn the whole time.

All right, the Golden Globes attempting a T.V. comeback. NBC dropped the broadcast last year over the complete lack of Black representation in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Here's host Jerrod Carmichael taking on the elephant in the room right away.


JERROD CARMICHAEL, HOST, GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS: And I'll tell you why I'm here. I'm here because I'm Black.


All right, one minute you're making mint tea at home; the next, you're invited to be the Black face of an embattled white organization.


ROMANS: Five of the seven major awards went to people of color, including Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Quinta Brunson, and Tyler James Williams. Angela Bassett won Best Supporting Actress in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA BASSETT, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, "BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER": The late Toni Morrison said that your life is already a miracle of chance just waiting for you to order its destiny. But in order for that destiny to manifest, I think that it requires courage, to have faith. It requires patience, as we just heard. And it requires a true sense of yourself.


ROMANS: Best Drama went to Stephen Spielberg's "The Fabelmans" for a film, and "THE HOUSE OF DRAGON" for T.V. And best comedy went to Irish period piece, "The Banshees of Inisherin" for film, and "ABBOTT ELEMENTARY" for T.V. HBO's hit show "THE WHITE LOTUS" also picked up several awards.

And this -- a candid, heartwarming moment from Kate Winslet is going viral.




ROMANS: The "Titanic" star is promoting "Avatar: The Way of Water." Here's how she encouraged a young reporter from German T.V.


CHILD JOURNALIST: It's my first time.

WINSLET: This is your first time doing it?


WINSLET: OK. Well, guess what? When we do this interview --


WINSLET: -- it's going to be the most amazing interview ever.


WINSLET: And do you know why?


WINSLET: Because we've decided that it is going to be. So we've decided right now, me and you --


WINSLET: -- that this is going to be a really fantastic interview.


WINSLET: And you can ask me anything that you want and you don't have to be scared. Everything's going to be amazing.


WINSLET: OK, you've got this.


WINSLET: OK, let's do it.


ROMANS: Oh my gosh, that's amazing. The clip surpassed more than a million views on Twitter in less than 24 hours.

Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans.