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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

U.K. Facing Largest Day Of Strikes Amid Cost Of Living Crisis; Investigator Alleges Alex Murdaugh "Confessed" On Tape To Murder; Authorities Find Missing Radioactive Capsule In Australia. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired February 01, 2023 - 05:30   ET



LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Agreement and a way forward because that country, since it became independent in 2011, has suffered so much conflict that have killed so many people -- thousands.

And that's why the holy father, as he is called, is adding his voice and trying to make sure that -- he calls it a forgotten genocide in the eastern DRC -- that these countries in Africa receive the attention and hopefully some resolution, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Larry Madowo. Thank you so much.

The United Kingdom facing its largest day of coordinated strikes in decades. Half a million people are expected to walk off the job and hit the streets today, disrupting schools, transportation, health care, and public sectors over wage benefits and working conditions. This is all amid a cost of living crisis in the U.K.

Let's bring in CNN's Nada Bashir in London. What are you hearing from the people who propelled this job action?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well look, Christine, what we're hearing from the multiple unions which have called for these strikes to take place not just today but over the next month is that they are still demanding that increase to those pay rises in line with inflation that we're seeing in the U.K. at an eyewatering rate. But also, of course, to combat the cost of living crisis, which is only deepening.

Now, today, of course, we are seeing teachers going on strike, transport workers, and civil servants, and this is set to cause widespread disruption across the country. But this is all part of a long-running standoff between the trade unions and the government. They say over the last few weeks negotiations have stalled and the government isn't budging on calls for that pay rise.

We are expecting to hear from the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak later today. He will address Parliament as part of prime minister's questions and he will certainly be facing questions on these strikes and on the industrial action that is being called for over the next few weeks. But the message we're hearing from the unions is that these strikes

will not end until the government is able to come to the negotiating table and to reach a suitable and appropriate resolution with the unions that meets their demands.

And, of course, this is just the beginning. We are expecting further strikes next week which will impact the national health service with nurses, ambulance workers, and even some NHS consultants threatening to go on strike. And that could have a severe impact on, of course, emergency care. But there are set to be further strikes across the next month and even into the summer if the government doesn't budge on their refusal to increase those pay rises for public service workers.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right, Nada Bashir. Thank you so much.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

Prosecutors in Germany say a woman once thought to be missing is now accused of killing her lookalike to fake her own death and start a new life. Local media has dubbed the case "Doppelganger Murder."

Suspects have been arrested after a suicide bomb attack in a Pakistan mosque that killed more than 100 people earlier this week. Police say more arrests are likely.

British Columbia has stopped arresting and prosecuting adults who have less than 2.5 grams of hard drugs like meth, heroin, and fentanyl. It's part of a three-year decriminalization pilot program.

Ahead, investors exhaling after a January for the ages for the Nasdaq. Plus, is this a confession?


ALEX MURDAUGH, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER OF WIFE AND SON: It's just so bad. I did him so bad.


ROMANS: New drama in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial next.



ROMANS: All right. The Alex Murdaugh murder trial continues just a few hours from now. The prosecution and defense -- they're sparring over whether he confessed to police after his wife and son were fatally shot.

CNN's Randi Kaye has more from South Carolina.


JIM GRIFFIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR ALEX MURDAUGH: According to your testimony, he says "I did him so bad." JEFF CROFT, STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT SPECIAL AGENT: That is what I understood him to say -- yes, sir.

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alex Murdaugh's defense lawyer cross-examining a special investigator and witness for the prosecution. The goal, to clear up what he heard or thought he heard Alex Murdaugh say that seemed to sound like a confession.

When Alex was interviewed by investigators on June 10, 2021, just a few days after his wife and son were murdered, he said this when talking about his son Paul.

MURDAUGH: It's just so bad. I did him so bad.

KAYE (voice-over): The witness -- special agent Jeff Croft with SLED, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division -- had told the court he thought Alex said "I did him so bad." But the defense suggested Alex actually said "They did him so bad."

GRIFFIN: Did you consider that to be some sort of confession on June 10?

CROFT: Again, I -- it was something that we were definitely going to follow up on -- yes, sir.

GRIFFIN: Why didn't you ask him right then and there when he said I did him so bad? Why didn't you ask him "What do you mean by that, Alex?"

CROFT: Again, it was early in the investigation.

GRIFFIN: So whether the -- what were the things going through your mind when you heard or misheard "I did him so bad" -- like, I wasn't a good dad, I spoiled him, or I killed him? I mean, what was going through your mental note?

CROFT: There was a mental note that it was definitely something that we needed to follow up on and act at a later time.

KAYE (voice-over): The defense replayed the part of the interview in question at regular speed, then slowed it down to a third of the speed and played it again.

GRIFFIN: Your honor, we'd like to play it again at one-third speed.

MURDAUGH: It's just so bad. I (they) did him so bad.

GRIFFIN: Did you hear they then?

CROFT: No, sir, I did not.

GRIFFIN: OK. But you would agree the jury gets to decide what he -- what he said on that tape. That's the best evidence.

CROFT: Yes, sir. KAYE (voice-over): The defense also got that same witness to tell the jury that the murder weapon that killed Paul Murdaugh was not one of the guns collected from Alex's gun room at the house. The witness said the ammunition wasn't a match either.

GRIFFIN: None of the shotguns that you brought yesterday, according to the ballistics report -- your lab analysis -- fired the shots that killed Paul, correct?

CROFT: I do not have the lab report in front of me.

GRIFFIN: Have you ever found the murder weapons?

CROFT: Not that I'm aware of, sir.

GRIFFIN: And you didn't find any similar ammunition at Moselle on June 8 or anytime after that, correct?

CROFT: I did not, sir.


KAYE (voice-over): Still, John Bedingfield, Alex's second cousin and a captain with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, also testified for the state. He told the jury he built AR-style rifles for Alex Murdaugh -- the same type of rifle the prosecution says was used at the murder scene.

GRIFFIN: How many Blackouts -- AR-style rifles -- did you make for Alex Murdaugh?


CREIGHTON WATERS, STATE PROSECUTOR: And when was that last one made?

BEDINGFIELD: Twenty-eighteen.

WATERS: April?

BEDINGFIELD: April of 2018.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Walterboro, South Carolina.


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

LeBron James shining under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden leading the Lakers to a win over the Knicks.

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


So LeBron's closing in on becoming the NBA's all-time leading scorer after last night. He only needs 89 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, so he should do it next when the Lakers return to L.A. for a two-game homestand.

But last night at MSG, the "CNN THIS MORNING" crew. Poppy Harlow, Don Lemon, and Kaitlan Collins were in the house for the game. They got to see LeBron have his first triple-double of the season. He hit this three with a minute-41 left to put the Lakers up by six.

But the Knicks -- they battled back in the closing seconds. And Jalen Brunson is going to hit this floater here to tie the game.

We got to overtime. In the extra period, LeBron taking over. The Lakers would win 129-123.

And during the game LeBron moving up to fourth on the all-time assist list, passing Mark Jackson and Steve Nash. And he was asked about all the records he's setting this season after the game.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: I didn't get to this point in my career by thinking about records or how many points I have, or whatever the case may be. I just play the game the right way. I approach the game every night on trying to be a triple threat by scoring, rebounding, assisting, defending. And, you know, later, may the chips fall where they may.


SCHOLES: All right. We had a couple of big NFL coaching hires yesterday according to multiple reports the Denver Broncos are hiring former Saints coach Sean Payton. Now, because Payton is still under contract with the New Orleans Saints through 2024, the Broncos are having to trade a first-round draft pick in this upcoming draft and next year's second-round pick in exchange for Payton, and the Saints' third-round pick in 2024.

The 59-year-old -- he coached the Saints for 15 seasons, leading them to their first-ever Super Bowl title before stepping down after the 2021 season.

Now, the Texans, meanwhile, hiring 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their new head coach. The 38-year-old is going to lead the franchise where he spent six seasons of his playing career as a linebacker. Ryans is going to be the fourth coach in Houston in four years. His deal is reportedly for six years.

Ryans' former teammate JJ Watt tweeting, "You want to reenergize and reignite the incredible Houston fan base, this is a hell of a start!"

All right, and finally, have you ever thought you could dominate a younger age group at a sport? Well, someone tried it out in Virginia. CNN affiliate WTKR reports that 22-year-old J.V. assistant coach Arlisha Boykins, wearing number one, played for Churchland High posing as a 13-year-old on January 21. Now, once this was discovered by the school, Boykins and the head varsity and JV girls basketball coaches were all fired.


BILLY HAUN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA HIGH SCHOOL LEAGUE: When an adult commits to being a high school coach it's not just about coaching the game. They take on a lot of responsibility. Adults who fail to live up to those expectations -- I'll just put it bluntly -- they fail students.


SCHOLES: And after the incident school administrators met with the players and their parents and both the JV and varsity girls' teams made the decision to cancel the rest of their season.

We reached out to Boykins for comment but have not heard back.

But Christine, I mean, I'm not sure how they thought they were going to pull that off and no one say anything about it because there's people in the stands watching --


SCHOLES: -- and they would probably flag it at some point.

ROMANS: Well, and the kids suffer. Right now the kids don't have the rest of their season and that just --

SCHOLES: It's true, yes.

ROMANS: -- it's terrible for them.

SCHOLES: It's a shame.

ROMANS: All right, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

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

Vice President Kamala Harris represents the White House at the funeral of Tyre Nichols today. Harris was invited by the family.

House Republicans holding a policy conference a few hours from now to talk about party messaging on the debt limit ahead of Speaker Kevin McCarthy's meeting with President Biden today.

The Florida College Board set to release a revised framework for an advanced placement African American studies course that was rejected by Gov. Ron DeSantis who calls it woke.

Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" new video of Donald Trump taking the fifth hundreds of times in a single deposition.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, 22. The Nasdaq just posted its best January in 22 years. The Nasdaq up nearly 11 percent for the month, its best January performance since a 12 percent gain all the way back in 2001. Market sentiment improving due to cooling inflation data.

Looking at markets around the world right now, European shares are mixed following news that inflation in the eurozone cooled in January. Asian markets are higher -- closed higher. Hong Kong's economy shrank though for the fourth-straight quarter.

And on Wall Street, stock index futures this morning learning a little bit lower here. But markets closed out a strong January with gains on Tuesday. The S&P 500 rose 1 1/2 percent. The Dow rising almost 400 points. And for the month, the Dow gained nearly three percent, the S&P up more than six percent, and we told you about the Nasdaq.

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates today by 25 basis points. That would be the smallest rate hike since last March.

Tech giant Meta reports fourth-quarter earnings after the bell today.

And on inflation watch, gas prices dropped a penny overnight to $3.50 a gallon.


All right, let's bring in Jay Bryson, managing director and chief economist at Wells Fargo. So nice to see you this morning, Jay.

The Fed meets today. We know that the Consumer Price Index still too high but coming down, improving a little bit. So we really focus a lot on that CPI. But if you drill down even further than that, the three- month annualized percent change in the Consumer Price Index -- that looks like it's back to the Fed's inflation target.

Is that why we think the Fed can go just a little bit smaller on its rate hike today?

JAY BRYSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND CHIEF ECONOMIST, WELLS FARGO (via Skype): Well, Christine, I mean, I wouldn't put a lot of weight on that. That reflects, in part, some gasoline prices coming down over the last few months, and that's not happening anymore. But in general, when you look at it, we're seeing inflationary pressures cool around the economy right now.

And so, yes, the Fed is ratcheting it back. No longer -- no need to go 75 basis points or even 50 anymore. They're kind of at the fine-tuning stages of their tightening cycle. And so, yes, we expect them to go 25 basis points today.

ROMANS: You know, all of that tightening -- this would be the eighth interest rate hike. But the U.S. economy still finished real strong at the end of last year -- 2.9 percent growth in the fourth quarter. Of course, what happens next is not clear but you say this: "2020 was

the pandemic; 2021 was the bounce-back from the pandemic; 2022 was a transition year."

So what's your base case for what happens here in 2023? A mild recession? Twenty-twenty-two was a transition to a mild recession year?

BRYSON: Yes, that's what we think, Christine. We do believe there's going to be a mild recession this year just because what inflation has done -- it's eroded purchasing power. That is people's wages and salaries are going up -- it's just not keeping pace with inflation right now.

And so we do think there's going to be some retrenchment in consumer spending this year. We think it's going to be relatively mild. And then that kind of sets the pace for the -- for Fed rate cuts further out. And then that brings around economic expansion as you head into 2024.

ROMANS: Rate cuts at what point do you think?

BRYSON: I don't think you're going to see that until very late this year --

ROMANS: Right.

BRYSON: -- and arguably, probably not until 2024.

The Fed wants to make sure that inflation is dead. It's certainly coming down but they want to make sure that it doesn't get stuck at three or four percent. They want to see it coming back down to two percent. And we're really not going to know that for a number of months yet. So I think they're going to be on hold for most of this year.

ROMANS: You still have a 30 to 40 percent chance of a soft landing built into your forecast. What would that take to get a soft landing here?

BRYSON: Yes. I mean, that -- a soft landing could happen. It's not our base case but it could happen because inflation is coming down. And so what's going to happen is wages and salaries are going up. Inflation is starting to come down. That helps that purchasing power that I talked about before.

And if the Fed pauses in its rate-hiking cycle, which you could potentially see as we -- you know, we have a narrow window but if we could get through that window without a recession and then as you get more and more real income, as the job market remains relatively strong, you could actually have the so-called soft landing.

So lots of questions about that yet but --


BRYSON: -- again, our base case is a mild recession this year.

ROMANS: Yes. I think mild is the key here. I mean, we're coming from such a strong base last year. The job market is still pretty strong.

Jay Bryson, nice to see you. Thank you so much for dropping by.

BRYSON: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on "CNN THIS MORNING" the vice president expected today at Tyre Nichols' funeral in Memphis.



ROMANS: All right, our top of the morning -- the top TV shows right now.


Clip from HBO "THE LAST OF US."


ROMANS: Number one, "THE LAST OF US" with a 93 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Number two --


Clip from IMDB "POKER FACE."


ROMANS: -- the new murder mystery "POKER FACE."

And here's number three.


Clip from Netflix "THE ORDER."


ROMANS: That's "THE ORDER" season one, now on Netflix.

All right, the creator of ChatGPT introducing a tool to help teachers find cheating by students who are using the artificial intelligence app. Students have been using ChatGPT to generate essays and take exams since it was released in November. This new feature will be able to detect if text was written by a human or by AI, but designers say it is considered imperfect.

All right, like a needed in a haystack. Searchers in Australia somehow managed to find a highly-radioactive capsule that fell off a truck last month. They scoured some 870 miles of remote land.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is with us. I mean, this seemed like an impossible task and they were warning the public if you come across this do not touch it. What can you tell us?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's tiny, it's potentially deadly, it's been missing in western Australia for six days, but it's been found. This radioactive, as you just put it, needle in a haystack was discovered. It was discovered earlier today at 11:13 a.m. local time on the Great Northern Highway just six feet or two meters from the road.

The search took place in the stretch of Australian highway. It's about the size of the coastline of California.

So how did they do it? They did it very, very slowly. They swept the area with these vehicles that had these flashing hazard lights and had these specialized radiation detectors on board. And they drove slowly up and down the highway both directions at only 30 miles per hour.

And as for the size of the pellet, I just want to quickly show this graphic to you. Super, super tiny.