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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Satellite Images Show Crowding At China's Crematoriums; Hamlin Cleared To Return Home Nine Days After Collapse; Rock Legend Jeff Beck Dies At 78. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 12, 2023 - 05:30   ET



CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This seems to point again to that -- that they might want this fresh pair of hands to spearhead that offense.

And we know, for example, that they've held back about half of the new recruits that are still in training. That might be more evidence of that as well, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Clare. We know you'll keep following it for us. Thank you so much.

All right. New satellite images of Chinese cities capture overcrowding at funeral homes and crematoriums, suggesting the scale of China's COVID deaths since easing restrictions is horrific. The country's official death toll remains extremely low.

CNN's Selina Wang has more from Beijing.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): COVID lockdowns may be over in China but for many, there's misery at the end of zero-COVID. The virus is overwhelming hospitals across the country. The sick struggle to get help. Patients crammed into every available space -- every hallway and corner of this northern Chinese hospital. Not everyone survives the struggle.

Rows of bodies fill this funeral home's storage room in Liaoning province, but we don't know how many died of COVID. In Jiangsu, families in mourning clothes flood the gate. And in Suitswan (PH) families line up outside right next to coffins, waiting to cremate their loved ones.

China has only officially reported a few dozen COVID-19 deaths since reopening, but satellite images confirm the different reality we see on the ground. These images taken in late December and early January show crowds and long lines of cars waiting outside of funeral homes in six Chinese cities.

The images from the outskirts of Beijing show that a brand-new parking lot was even constructed. We visited that funeral home. Rows of cars were already there.

WANG (on camera): I am now standing in that new parking lot of this Beijing funeral home. This entire parking lot area did not exist a month ago. And as you can see, the roads are not paved.

WANG (voice-over): One van pulls in, unloads a body, and another follows.

A man tells me he waited hours for his brother's body to be cremated. But the wait is nothing, he says, compared to the crowds from a few weeks ago. Experts say Beijing's COVID outbreak has already peaked.

In December, we filmed these body bags piling up in metal crates at another Beijing crematorium during the height of Omicron's spread in the city.

This video CNN has obtained was filmed by a man who said his father's body was lying in this overflowing Beijing hospital morgue for days. He said his father waited hours for hospital bed space. By the time a bed opened up, it was too late.

Cities are now scrambling to set up fever clinics and increase ICU capacity. For weeks, it was nearly impossible to buy cold or fever medicine. They were all sold out because of the huge demand.

WANG (on camera): Drug companies, like this major pharmaceutical manufacturer in Beijing -- they are going into overdrive to increase supply after there was a shortage of medicine to treat COVID-19 symptoms.

I asked the vice president if they had received any advance warning from the government that they were going to abandon zero-COVID so they could prepare to ramp up production. Well, he didn't directly answer my question but it's clear that now they are doubling down.

WANG (voice-over): The company told us they simply follow government policy.

The drug shortage, overflowing hospitals and crematoriums -- they're images of a country unprepared for the sudden end of zero-COVID.

So many families in mourning are questioning what their three years of sacrifice during zero-COVID was really all for.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


ROMANS: All right, Selina. Thank for that.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

The U.S. and Japan have signed an agreement to strengthen their military alliance, increasing the number of American troops in Okinawa, citing threats from China and North Korea. Tomorrow, President Biden hosts Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House.

Panama has sent more than 55 tons of seized cocaine to the U.S. to be destroyed. It's part of an agreement to avoid contamination by open burning because Panama does not have a drug incinerator.


DEMI LOVATO, SINGER: Singing "Substance."


ROMANS: British regulators banning Demi Lovato posters from the streets of London, calling them likely to cause serious offense to Christians. It shows her new album cover, which is called something, frankly, we can't say on T.V. So, feel free to Google it yourself.

All right. Just ahead, we'll see the man accused of murdering four University of Idaho students a few hours from now.

And Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin finally at home. The latest on his progress.



ROMANS: All right. Just nine days after collapsing on the field and nearly losing his life, Bills safety Damar Hamlin is home.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report.

It's just such an amazing story that -- I mean, his heart stopped on the field --


ROMANS: -- and now he's home.

MANNO: It is. It's a -- it's a crazy recovery. I mean, the journey back to football, if he should choose that path, is really just beginning.

ROMANS: Right.

MANNO: I mean, this is going to be a long road by everything that we can tell. But he has come so far in such a short period of time.

Seven days in the hospital in Cincinnati; just two days in Buffalo. And now, Damar Hamlin is home and back with his family.

The Bills say he was released from Buffalo General yesterday after a comprehensive medical evaluation. That included a series of cardiac tests, neurological tests, vascular testing.

And in a statement, the hospital said that in consultation with the teams' physicians, they are confident that Damar can be safely discharged to continue his rehab at home and with the Bills.

Now, we're still waiting for a definitive explanation for why he collapsed in cardiac arrest.

Bills' coach Sean McDermott spoke about the potential for a return to the team for the Bills' safety.


SEAN MCDERMOTT, HEAD COACH, BUFFALO BILLS: I'm grateful, first and foremost, that he's home and with his parents and his brother, which is great. I'm sure it's felt like a long time since he's been able to be home naturally there, and I'm sure it's a great feeling.


And, yes, we'll leave it up to him. His health is first and foremost on our mind as far as his situation goes. And then when he feels ready, we welcome him back as he feels ready.


MANNO: Now, the Bills host the Dolphins in the wild card on Sunday. Miami is going to be, again, without their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was ruled out yesterday. He has suffered two documented concussions this season. Rookie Skylar Thompson getting the start there. But certainly, a winnable game for Buffalo after this good news with Damar.

And big news in the tennis world as well, as we now know the reason that Naomi Osaka withdrew from the Australian Open over the weekend. She is expecting a baby.

The 25-year-old tweeting a photo yesterday, writing that the last few months away from the sport have given her a new love and appreciation for the game that she has dedicated her life to. She says one of the things that she is looking forward to most is having her child at a match and being able to tell someone hey, that's my mom. It was very sweet.

So congratulations to her.

And we end this morning in the NBA. Ja Morant adding another candidate to the dunk of the year competition, sending it over Jakob Poeltl late in the fourth quarter to a game-high 38 points. And the Grizzlies win over the Spurs. An absolute poster moment.

More impressive, though, was Morant's play after the game. Check this out, Christine. Taking off his shoes and jersey, signing them, and giving them to a young fan, 11-year-old Elly, after he learned that the basketball that he signed for Elly at the Grizzlies game on Monday night was actually stolen. So he decided to take all of this stuff off, sign it, and give it to her. Very sweet.

I love it when we have good news in sports --

ROMANS: I know.

MANNO: -- and I feel like it's good news all around this morning, which is making me very happy.

ROMANS: I know. Damar going home. Naomi Osaka having a baby. Like, all this is good news.


ROMANS: All right, thanks so much. Nice to see you.

MANNO: Sure.

ROMANS: All right, here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

President Biden will talk about the economy and efforts to tackle inflation later this morning. We're awaiting a key report on consumer prices due in less than three hours from now.

The suspect in the murders of four University of Idaho students will be in court later this morning. Bryan Kohberger has not entered a plea and is waiting to hear whether he will face the death penalty.

More than 7,000 New York City nurses will be heading back to work starting this morning. The settlement of a three-day strike at the Mount Sinai and Montefiore health systems announced just minutes ago.

All right. Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," another batch of classified documents found in a second location linked to Biden. What could it mean for the president?

And next, right here, some big banks laying off or pulling back. What that means for the rest of us.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, 80. It has been more than 80 years since the last time we've seen two global recessions in the same decade. That was back in the 1930s. Now, we're not there at this point, but the World Bank, this week, sharply lowered its forecast for global economic growth.

Looking at markets around the world right now, you can see Asian shares are closed for their session. They closed higher. Europe has opened higher.

And on Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour are decidedly mixed here. We've got some big data coming up in a few hours.

U.S. stocks rallied at the close Wednesday. Long-term bond yields fell. The Nasdaq rose nearly two percent. The S&P 500 up more than one percent. The Dow gained about 270 points.

Investors optimistic the Fed will slow rate hikes. And today's key inflation report will confirm that red-hot inflation has peaked.

Gas prices have also settled down from last winter as rising interest rates reduced demand, bringing oil prices down.

All right, let's bring in Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at All right, Greg, where are you -- where are you putting your money this morning? Has inflation peaked?

GREG MCBRIDE, CHIEF FINANCIAL ANALYST, BANKRATE.COM (via Skype): I think it has. We are -- there are high expectations that we're going to get a much better number and continue this trend of decelerating inflation pressures, but we're a long way from where we need to be.

Inflation has run seven percent over the last year. The goal is two percent. And by the way, a year ago at this time, inflation was also around seven percent. So we've only made progress from a peak of nine and we've still got a long way to go to get to two.

So -- but what investors are looking for is just a continuation of this trend, less inflation pressure, and more broad-based improvement.

ROMANS: You know, stocks have rebounded to start this year after just an awful year last year for stocks and bonds.

Is there a risk here that they're underestimating the inflation story again because you make the point we are still five percentage points away from where we need to be?

MCBRIDE: Yes. I think there's certainly a lot of expectations for a good number that's baked into, particularly, the rally we've seen this week.

And the recurring theme that we keep seeing in markets, Christine, is this idea that investors are of the belief that the Fed is going to wimp out and that they're going to stop raising rates and start cutting rates much sooner than the Fed has said that they're going to do. So you've got this tug-of-war between the two.

And so, markets kind of go up on this belief, then the Fed throws cold water on it and you see markets pull back. We've kind of seen that cycle play out a couple of times already and it's one of those here we go again.

ROMANS: Yes. I've heard it called the pivot party -- that Wall Street investors can't wait for the pivot party. But so far, we haven't really heard the Fed pivot, right?

MCBRIDE: Not at all. They've said quite the opposite. The mantra that's coming from the Fed is we're going to continue to raise interest rates and even once we stop, we're going to keep them there for a while. We want to make sure that inflation is going to go down and stay down. Now, does anything in there sound like oh, yeah, we're going to be in a hurry to cut rates? Not to me.

But, you know, that's why you've had this continued tug-of-war between the Fed and investors because the Fed has a little bit of a credibility problem when it comes to inflation.

ROMANS: Let's talk about layoffs because two things are true at the same time. BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, and some banks in tech are laying off workers. We know Wells Fargo is planning to shrink its mortgage business.

At the same time, though, there are 10 million open jobs in America and you hear from companies outside of finance, and tech, and media -- outside of those sectors they're saying we want to retain workers and layoffs are low.


How could all this be true at the same time?

MCBRIDE: Well, we have a $21 trillion economy, so you've got a lot of different moving parts.

Yes, the labor market has been very, very resilient and there are a lot of businesses with a lot of open jobs. But when you look at businesses who are cyclical in nature -- they're very closely tied to the health of the economy -- financial services is at the top of the list.

Mortgage applications have fallen off the table as rates doubled over the last year. The stock market, as you noted a moment ago, was down almost 20 percent last year. Well, if you're a mortgage lender or you're an asset manager that gets paid on a percentage of assets that you manage -- well, you got 20 percent less money coming in the door.

So I think what you're seeing there is kind of a harbinger of what we're more -- what we're seeing -- likely to see as the economy continues to slow further and particularly if those two out of three economists predicting a recession end up being correct.

ROMANS: Hey, Greg, before I let you go, you work for Bankrate. What should consumers expect for their consumer interest rates this year? Credit cards, car loans, home loans.

MCBRIDE: Credit cards, home equity lines, even car loans -- those are going to continue to go up, particularly here in the first half of the year, and even then they're going to level out. They're not likely to pull back.

Now, mortgage rates -- they tend to lead the Fed. So I think we'll see mortgage rates pull back, particularly in the back half of the year, if the economy is slowing. But we're still going to end the year a good bit higher than where we were this time a year ago.

ROMANS: All right, Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Thank you, Greg. Have a great day.

MCBRIDE: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" is officially a bestseller. Random House Group says his book sold more than 1.4 million copies on the first day of release. That's huge numbers. That's just the English language version and accounts for all formats and additions in the U.K., Canada, and the United States.

This is the largest first-day sales total for any non-fiction book ever published by Penguin Random House. Even with all of those leaks, still huge demand for that tone.

All right. Republicans in GOP Congressman George Santos' own district calling for him to resign. How Santos is responding, ahead.

And House Republican lawmakers taking aim at the Internal Revenue Service. A new bill they're proposing that would abolish the IRS -- starve it of funding. That's coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."



ROMANS: Our Top of the Morning, the top T.V. shows right now.


Clip from HBO Max "THE LAST OF US."


ROMANS: Rotten Tomatoes says "THE LAST OF US" on HBO Max is the most popular. It also scores 97 percent on the tomato meter.

Number two --


Clip from Netflix "KALEIDOSCOPE."


ROMANS: That's "KALEIDOSCOPE" from Netflix.

And the third most popular --


Clip from Netflix "GINNY AND GEORGIA."


ROMANS: Season two of "GINNY AND GEORGIA," which also has an 80 percent audience score.

All right, the legendary Jeff Beck, one of the great rock guitarists, has died.


JEFF BECK, GUITARIST: (Playing guitar).


ROMANS: Beck rose to fame in the 1960s as a member of The Yardbirds, and later formed the Jeff Beck Group. He won eight Grammys and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice.

Last year, Beck toured with Johnny Depp after they recorded a cover album.

His publicist says he died after contracting bacterial meningitis.

Jeff Beck was 78 years old.

One of the original 90s supermodels, Tatjana Patitz, has died of breast cancer.


TATJANA PATITZ, GERMAN SUPERMODEL: Appearing in George Michael's "Freedom" music video.


ROMANS: She appeared on the cover of dozens of fashion magazines inspiring George Michael to cast her in his music video for "Freedom! '90."

Patitz was born in Hamburg, Germany and raised in Sweden.

All right, Southern California will get a break from the weather today. Across the state, people cleaning up from the damage caused by weeks now of storms and torrential rains. More rain and flooding is forecast, though, in Northern California.

Let's get to meteorologist Allison Chinchar. What do we know about the storm threat now to Northern California, Allison?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. It's really just a shift, Christine. So while some areas are going to get a break, other not necessarily going to be the same case.

The focus today becomes, right now, in Northern California, and a lot of heavy rain across Washington State. This is the general region where we're going to see the bulk of the activity for the day today.

And it's a much-needed break when you consider how much rain has fallen just in the last three weeks. A lot of these areas of California picking up six months' worth of rain. Truly, a half a year's worth of rain in just simply three weeks.

It's not just rain, it's also the snow. Snowpack across the state about 226 percent. And yes, that's fantastic news for skiers. But also, it's significant because that snowpack accounts for about 30 percent of all California's freshwater that's used on an average year. Now, here's the thing. A little bit of a break for central and Southern California today as this system continues to push most of the moisture into the Pacific Northwest. But it's a very short-lived break. We get a lot more of that moisture back into central and Southern California as we head into the day Friday.

Elsewhere, we also have some showers and thunderstorms in the eastern portion of the country, right there along the Mississippi River. The potential for today also does include the threat for some severe storms as well, and perhaps a few tornadoes. The bulk of the concern, however, is really going to be damaging winds and the potential for some large hail for cities like Atlanta, Pensacola, as well as New Orleans.