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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden: U.S. Will Not Provide F-16 Jets To Ukraine; 92 Dead In Pakistan Mosque Attack As Taliban Denies Responsibility; Nationwide Protests Over Pension Changes Underway. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 31, 2023 - 05:30   ET




FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): -- to prevent the Ukrainians breaking through here to sustain their own offensive against Bakhmut and are now also launching fresh attacks near Vuhledar for their self.

This video near Vuhledar shows Russian armor getting hit by Ukraine's artillery. The soldiers run away. A wounded comrade tries to crawl to safety. In all these places drones are critical to detect and to destroy the enemy.

Dnipro-1 has its own drone workshop where NATO-issued grenades are literally sawn in half to be carried on drones. Uri can manufacture drone munitions in 20 minutes and they've proven very effective in the conflict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

PLEITGEN (voice-over): "Drone operator is one of the most dangerous jobs," the boss says. "As soon as they locate a drone operate they use all kinds of weaponry, artillery, MLRS, tanks. We have a high rate of casualties among drone pilots."

In the forest, Uslan's (PH) mission is now over but he sees a long battle ahead in a contest of wits and brute force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mostly in last months our Army goes there, but last two weeks maybe we stop and Russians making counterattack.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And all the time, drones will shape the way this war changes.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Zarichna, Ukraine.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you so much for that.

The Taliban in Pakistan now denying responsibility for a deadly blast inside a mosque that left at least 92 people dead. Dozens more have been found injured as the search for survivors intensifies. CNN's Sophia Saifi joins us live from Islamabad, Pakistan. The Pakistanian Taliban first claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Monday then denied the claim a short time later. What's going on?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Christine, we've been getting different messaging from different factions from within the Pakistani Taliban. So we've had some factions, some commanders from within the organization confirming to CNN that they were behind the attack, but then the official spokesperson put out a statement saying that they would never attack a mosque and that they weren't behind it.

What we do know is that the Pakistani government had a ceasefire with the Pakistani Taliban in November of last year. That's fallen apart. And since then there has been an incredible increase in attacks in Pakistan. So, cities like Islamabad where I am, and Peshawar, which isn't too far away, have been on high alert since the beginning of the year.

There was an attempted attack -- suicide attack in the heart of the capital at the end of December and now this in a police compound in one of the most secure parts of the city of Peshawar, which is no stranger to such attacks but which hasn't seen these kinds of attacks in the past couple of years.

It's a horrible, horrific sense of deja vu for the people of Peshawar. They've been burying their dead overnight. Funerals are continuing into the day today. There are still rescue efforts -- well, actually search operations taking place in the rubble of that mosque where we've been told by police officials that a suicide bomber walked in with about 12 kilograms of explosives strapped onto him and then exploded himself, which we ended up seeing and hearing from eyewitnesses. They said that they saw a huge burst of flames, dust all around them, and then the ceiling crashed in.

So these are big numbers -- one of the deadliest attacks that has happened in Pakistan in the past couple of years. Pakistan is no stranger for the past two decades to these kind of attacks taking place within their country.

And Pakistan's prime minister hasn't really named the Taliban. He's been accusing for the past couple of months the Ogran (PH) Taliban for harboring the Pakistani Taliban for providing them with safe havens to carry these attacks on Pakistani soil. The Pakistani prime minister said yesterday that terrorism is once again the biggest threat to Pakistan's security. And that is something of concern here for Pakistanis and for the people in the region -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, thank you so much for that report.

All right, quick hits around the globe right now.

The hunt for a highly radioactive capsule no bigger than a coin intensifies in Australia. Officials believe it fell off a truck on a northwestern highway during transport.

American skier Kyle Smaine killed in an avalanche in Japan. The 31- year-old was one of two men found dead in Ogano. Police say 13 people were caught in that avalanche.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month tourist visa to remain in the U.S. He is being investigated for his involvement in the January 8 attacks in Brasilia.

Both Super Bowl quarterbacks making history before they even take a snap. Plus, protests over pension changes in France. Are the proposals unfair? We'll let you be the judge.



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

We will hear from Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the next couple of hours. He is meeting now with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

Today, Dominion Voting Systems will depose former House Speaker Paul Ryan who is now on the board of Fox Corporation. The company filed a billion-dollar defamation case against Fox alleging false election conspiracy theories.

President Biden heads to New York City later this morning where he'll tout the success of the infrastructure law ahead of next week's State of the Union address.

All right, Bears quarterback Justin Fields tells CNN he's excited that Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts will make football history as the first Black quarterbacks to face off in the Super Bowl.

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


So, seven Black quarterbacks have started in the Super Bowl but this is going to be the very first time that two will play against each other in football's biggest game.

And there's a lot of historical significance in this matchup. If Mahomes wins against the Eagles he's going to be first Black quarterback with multiple Super Bowl wins. And if the Eagles beat the Chiefs, Hurts would become the fourth Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, joining Mahomes, Doug Williams, and Russell Wilson.


And Bears quarterback Justin Fields told CNN's Coy Wire that Mahomes and Hurts are great role models for the next generation of quarterbacks.


JUSTIN FIELDS, QUARTERBACK, CHICAGO BEARS: I'm excited for it. I know those guys are going to be hyped up and ready to play. But it's definitely a big moment for a lot of Black young QBs coming up and just being -- having them inspire them and maybe they're saying to themselves that could be me one day. So just being able to see that if you're a young kid out there -- a young Black quarterback being able to see that and kind of say wow -- like, it's actually happening and that could be me one day. So it's definitely awesome to see for sure.


SCHOLES: Super Bowl LVII will kick off on February 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

All right, in the meantime, the news isn't good for 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. He reportedly suffered a complete tear of a ligament in his throwing elbow during Sunday's game and he's going to need surgery. Recovery time for that would be around six months. According the NFL Network, the rookie is seeking a second opinion in order to try to avoid that Tommy John surgery.

All right, in the NBA, it was another stellar night for Mavs star Luka Doncic. He poured in 53 points, including this spinning jumper with under a minute to go to put the game away. This is Luka's fourth 50- point game of the season.

Luka then having some words with the Pistons' coaching staff in the closing seconds.

The Mavs win 111-105.

And here's Luka afterwards.


LUKA DONCIC, GUARD, DALLAS MAVERICKS: It was their assistant coach. He started chirping in the first quarter. So they didn't like when I chirped back. They said, "play basketball." If they're going to chirp at me, I'm going to chirp back. I ain't scared.


SCHOLES: He's not scared.

All right, in college basketball, fans that stuck around for the second half of last night's game between Texas Tech and number 13 Iowa State witnessed the biggest second-half comeback in Big 12 history. Iowa State was up by 23 points with under 13 minutes remaining but the Red Raiders went on a furious rally to send the game into overtime.

Guard Deviant Harmon was on fire. He scored all 16 of his points in the second half. And in the final seconds, Texas Tech would hold on 80-77 to get their first conference win of the season.

And, Christine, I know you're not one of the people not happy watching that highlight this morning. I bet it was a long trip back to Ames for those Cyclones. ROMANS: What happened to the Cyclones? I mean, what happened? Was it just a superior Texas Tech performance or the Cyclones just fell apart?

SCHOLES: I mean, when you get up on that many points that late in the game you probably just kind of let your guard down. And Texas Tech hadn't won a conference game all season so they were due. It was kind of a perfect storm. But man, woo, what a rally.

ROMANS: Yes, they come home to the cold, hard winter. Boy, those poor Cyclones.

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

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Day two of nationwide strikes underway in France. This is live video from Marce. Workers are furious over plans to change that country's famously generous retirement policies. The government wants to raise the retirement age gradually from 62 to 64.

CNN's Melissa Bell reports from Paris on the chaos and closures.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last protest against pension reform saw more than a million people take to the streets of France, according to official figures. Just over 10 days later unions are hoping to top that. They're also calling for strikes across the public and private sectors like the ones that paralyzed so much of the country on January 19. But for now, the government hasn't budged.

OLIVIER VERAN, FRENCH GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON (through translator): We are not asking everyone to agree with the reform we are carrying out. What we want is, first of all, to explain that this reform is essential and that we must do it.

BELL (voice-over): Currently, the French can retire at 62, or even earlier in some cases, with a minimum monthly government pension of around 1,000 euros.

Earlier this month the French prime minister announced plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 with the full pension raised by an average of 100 euros a month.

STEPHANIE RIST, GOVERNMENT MP (through translator): The reform is necessary because the accounts are in deficit from this year. Our pension system is no longer balanced and by 2027 we are looking at a deficit of roughly 12 billion euros.

BELL (voice-over): Pension reform has been derailed in the past. In 1995, under then-President Jacques Chirac, it also faced stiff resistance under Macron's two predecessors.

FRANCOIS HOMMERIL, PRESIDENT, CFE-CGC UNION (through translator): This reform comes at a time when there's a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, a lot of fatigue. In fact, it comes at the worst time where living standards down and the cost of living up. For some people shopping bills are up by 20 or 30 percent and rent hasn't fallen. And all of that creates a climate of defiance.

BELL (voice-over): Largely peaceful defiance so far but also anger with more than 70 people detained last time.


Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


ROMANS: All right, from early retirement to a four-day work week. Next, the U.S. state that's talking about trying it.

And coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," freezing rain and plunging temperatures already causing nearly 1,000 flight cancellations across the country.


ROMANS: All right, your Roman's Numeral this morning, four -- as in a four-day work week.

Maryland may start trying it. A new bill in Maryland to incentive employers of at least 30 employees to experiment shifting from a 40- hour week to a 32-hour week for up to two years without cutting pay or benefits. It provides up to $750,000 in tax credits per year to try it in the private sector. They have tried it and a lot of companies like it.

Looking at markets around the world, lower across the board. European markets down. Eurozone GDP grew slightly in the fourth quarter. And this -- the IMF now says the global economic outlook is slightly less gloomy than anticipated. We'll take that.


On Wall Street, stock index futures leaning down though after they fell yesterday on caution ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting that officials are expected to hand down a 25 basis point rate hike. About to slow down amid signs of easing inflation.

On earnings watch, McDonald's, Pfizer, and UPS report earnings later today. And on inflation watch, gas prices held steady overnight at $3.51 a gallon.

All right, it's tax season, now officially underway, and taxpayers will see big changes when they file their 2022 tax returns.

Joining me now, my friend and editor-in-chief at Investopedia, Caleb Silver. Nice to see you, Caleb.

CALEB SILVER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, INVESTOPEDIA: Good to see you. Good to be with you.

ROMANS: Oh, I love talking taxes before breakfast.

What are some of the biggest changes that people are going to see in tax season this year? And your tax refund I think, bottom line, could be lower this year. Why?

SILVER: It's going to be lower because we're rolling back a lot of those pandemic-related tax incentives or credits --

ROMANS: Right.

SILVER: -- that the government put out. So you've got to remember that when you file.

The expiration of the enhanced childcare tax credit -- that goes back to 2019 levels. Also, the child independent care credit -- that also goes back to 2019 levels. And all those incentives for giving more to charity -- those also roll back to those 2019 levels. You don't get that full deduction on 100 percent of what you give.

ROMANS: So the refund is going to be a little bit smaller.

And the income tax brackets changed this year. What do we need to know?

SILVER: Yes, they change every year along with inflation.

ROMANS: Right.

SILVER: Big -- a small change in 2022 for the taxes you will file for last year. Big changes for 2023. So your tax rate doesn't change, the bracket does. The amount that you pay on your marginal income -- that changes, so you've got to pay attention to that.

You're not going to necessarily have to pay more but they do shift. The brackets do shift. We had a lot of inflation.


SILVER: The IRS always shifts the brackets every year.

ROMANS: Of course.

So what are the key things to know about withholding and deductions then?

SILVER: Yes. If you had a life change in the past year you've got to remember that when you're filing your taxes. That means if you had a marriage or if you got divorced, if you had a child. That all changes your dependents and how you file your taxes. So keep that in mind.

You can also -- if you want to stay in that lower tax bracket and defer some of the income you're making this year so you pay a lower tax bracket -- that might be helpful to you. And you should also plan your earnings this year to be a little bit

more tax advantageous. The brackets shift a little bit but there are ways to get around some of those taxes that you might have to pay.

ROMANS: Tax season is also notoriously fraud season. Tell us what to be careful about.

SILVER: Yes. Don't pick up the phone if somebody's saying they're from the IRS.

ROMANS: They don't call you.

SILVER: The IRS does not call you. The IRS does not call you. They may email you if you have a taxpayer I.D. and a password online with That's why --

ROMANS: They're more like to mail you something, right, if there's a problem?

SILVER: Definitely.

ROMANS: They'll mail you something. You'll have a -- your I.D. will be on it.

SILVER: Yes, they'll mail you something.

But if somebody picks up the phone or somebody calls you and says hey, we're from the IRS. If you just press these digits or send us your birthday and your Social Security number we'll give you a faster refund. That's not the IRS. That's a fraud. Pay attention because tax season could also be fraud season. And the IRS is on red alert for that but you should be, too.

ROMANS: Yes, that's really good -- really good advice. And boy, I sure wish they could pick up the phone a little easier over there at the IRS but that's a whole nother problem trying to -- trying to staff up for that.

Caleb Silver, Investopedia. Nice to see you, Caleb, as always.

Ford shifting gears in the EV race with Tesla, boosting production and dropping the price of its Mustang Mach-E. Ford's answer to Tesla's Model Y is now just under $54,000. Tesla just lowered its prices. Ford's move rolls back the price hikes it announced last summer. The prices now may still be somewhat higher than before the increases.

All right, new fallout in the police beating death of Tyre Nichols. Three EMTs fired and two more police officers placed on leave. Why they're now being held responsible, ahead.

And a look back at the life of Laverne & Shirley's Cindy Williams coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."


[05:57:58] ROMANS: All right, our top of the morning, the top NFL stadiums for hungry and thirsty fans.

Number one, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. One big reason this tops the list, of course, a $5.00 beer and $2.00 hot dogs, both the cheapest in the league according to

Number two, N-R-G Stadium in Houston. You can wash down -- oh yeah, get this -- authentic brisket with a $6.00 beer while you watch the Texans.

And number three, Empower Field at Mile High in Denver. Stadium grub is easy to grab there. One concession stand for every -- wow -- 445 Broncos fans. That's a good ratio -- the best ratio in the league.

Arizona's State Farm Stadium -- site of Super Bowl LVII, by the way -- ranks 11th.

All right, an unexpected find on the surface of Mars -- a formation resembling the face of a bear. A camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance orbiter snapped that photo. What do you think? Does it look like a bear? This was last month that photo was taken.

Scientists say a circular fracture pattern outlines the head -- OK. Two craters form the eyes. And that V-shaped collapsed structure creates the illusion of a bear's snout.

We now know who will play Michael Jackson in a movie about the King of Pop. The later superstar's 26-year-old nephew Jaafar Jackson will portray him in the upcoming called "Michael."




ROMANS: Classics like that one, "Billie Jean," will surely be in the film. It's set to be produced by Lionsgate.

Jaafar Jackson tweeted this photo where he is seen wearing Michael Jackson's iconic moonwalk outfit. He wrote he's both "humbled and honored" to bring his uncle's story to life.

No word who would play other famous Jacksons in this film about Michael Jackson, like Janet, Jermaine, Tito, parents, but we will see.

All right, thanks for joining me this morning. I'm Christine Romans.