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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

U.N.: Only Route for International Air to Syria Inaccessible; More Than 9,500 Dead in Syria, Turkey from Earthquake; NTSB: Southwest Jet, FedEx Plane Came Within 100 Feet of Collision; Lebron James Breaks NBA's All-Time Scoring Record; Zelenskyy Makes First Trip to U.K. Since Russian Invasion; North Korea Appears to be Preparing Parade to Show Off New Weapons. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, I hope you have good news soon for that family that is in that void on the fourth for. Thank you so much, Becky Anderson.

All right, U.N. officials say that the only route for getting international aid to Syria is now unreachable because of damage to roads in the area from the earthquake. The Bab Al-Salam is the only open link to opposition held regions Syria and workers warn that thousands are at risk because that route is now inaccessible. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is live at an aid distribution point in Istanbul for us this morning. Salma, what's the latest on the effort there?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just want to start by showing you around, Christine. Because this is a huge effort that we're seeing here in Istanbul. This is a massive center, essentially three hangars. And what you are looking at are dozens of volunteers. You have good Samaritans who have come out to help, they are packing these boxes as quickly as they can with whatever they can get. These are all -- everything that you are looking at is a donation.

You have food, you have diapers, you have basic supplies, sanitation kits. And forgive me, I do know there's a loud speaker. The only way that they can organize all of this is by shouting down that loud speaker to the volunteers all across here. And again, packing these boxes as quickly as they can.

Again I just want to show you the scene of these young women here filling these boxes with clothes. We've seen the images of people just shivering in the cold without any access to shelter. They are hoping that these clothes will keep children warm tonight in that earthquake zone.

Now I know you mentioned Syria, Christine. There aid is not trickling in at all. I want you to take a look at what the picture looks like for rescue workers desperately trying to help inside Syria.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Little Rava (ph) has lost her mother, both her siblings, too, all three killed by a massive earthquake that leveled her home.

This was Rava just a few hours before, rushed to safety after she was pulled out of the rubble, her clothes stained with blood. The toddler will be cared for by her uncle, while her father recovers in hospital from his wounds, activists say.

This is a place all too familiar with heartbreak. Devastated by nearly 12 years of war, there was little left to cope with yet another catastrophe.

Northwestern Syria was rattled by a 7.8 magnitude quake and dozens of aftershocks. But in the first moments, traumatized residents wondered if warplanes were overhead again.

Torn apart by civil conflict, the response to this disaster is divided among political lines. In the rebel-held province of Idlib, rescue workers known as the White Helmets labor through the night to pull out the dead and the living.

Drone shots reveal the scope and scale of their grim task, while countless families searching for missing loved ones endure an agonizing wait.

But help can't reach everyone. In remote areas, relatives are desperately digging with bare hands. "My family is underneath the rubble, my children and grandchildren," this man says, "but there's no way to get them out, no one to rescue them, no machinery. I think they're still alive. We hear their voices."

Any survivors found are rushed to overwhelmed hospitals like this one, where beds for patients have run out, the dead lay bleeding on the floor, and the body bags keep piling up.

In government-controlled areas, residents are largely cut off from the international aid being poured into the disaster zone. President Bashar al-Assad's regime is heavily sanctioned by the West for bombarding his own people.

Here, it's Syria's supporters, the patrons of the conflict, Russia and Iran, offering aid. Moscow's troops are supporting search and recovery efforts, and President Putin has vowed to send more help.

But disaster knows no politics. Here, families are desperate for news, too.

"I can't find my sister," this woman says. "She lived on the second floor with her son and three daughters. Maybe they didn't get out. We've checked the hospitals. We've looked everywhere for them. God, I hope they're OK."

Syrians feel their plight was long forgotten and neglected. Now with their tragedy thrust into the spotlight again, it's up to the world to hear their pleas.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Now, as you can see here, of course this international effort and the community effort here in Istanbul, Turks wanting to help Turks, that effort looks so different inside Syria, Christine. Again, there are diplomatic efforts to try to open a corridor, to try to get help to some people inside that affected area. But we're dealing with so many different authorities on the ground. And for a population already traumatized, already deprived, already so vulnerable, it's just difficult to imagine what happens next -- Christine.

ROMANS: Salma, thank you so much.

All right, quick hits around the globe right now. Police clash with protesters over proposed pension reform in France. A quarter of a million people demonstrated Tuesday. A new bill would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

A town in Ecuador electing a mayor one day after he was assassinated amid a violent crime wave. Another member of his party will serve on his behalf.

Researchers say 15 million people around the world are at risk from fast melting glaciers. The glaciers leave massive pools of water behind that could leave floods without warning.

All right, after the big speech comes the big sell. President Biden hits the road today. And LeBron James makes NBA history and touts himself as the G.O.A.T.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to the end of the third quarter. LeBron James is shouting history!



ROMANS: Here's today's fast-forward look ahead. President Biden's first stop following the state of the union, Madison, Wisconsin. The president heads there today where he'll talk up his economic plan.

And the 1988 Lockerbie bombing suspect will be arraigned in a D.C. federal court today. He faces multiple charges for the Pan Am bombing that killed 270 including hundred 190 Americans.

The House oversight committee begins hearings on Hunter Biden and his hacked laptop. Former Twitter executives will face questions from lawmakers.

Four people were injured on board a United Airlines flight after a battery caught fire inside the he plane. The Newark bound flight returned safely to San Diego Tuesday. [04:40:00]

Just the latest in the series of problems facing airlines as the FAA faces new scrutiny about safety. And we get more from Pete Muntean in Washington.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The newest case of a near-collision on the runway comes as aviation officials are facing tough questions from Congress. Investigators say before dawn Saturday, a FedEx Boeing 767 was about to land at Austin's International Airport as a Southwest Airlines 737 was told to take off from the same ran runway.

The National Transportation Safety Board now tells CNN the FedEx crew aborted their landing plans unprompted and started to climb averting disaster.

TOWER: FedEx is on the go.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: They saved in my view 128 people from a potential catastrophe.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy says the two planes came within 100 feet of colliding in thick fog. It comes three weeks after another near collision at JFK where a Delta Airlines flight abruptly stopped its takeoff as an American Airlines flight taxied across the runway in front of it.

TOWER: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance!

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The NTSB now says in both incidents, cockpit voice recorders timed out after two hours and not 25 like the agency has recommended, leaving investigators without key clues.

HOMENDY: The ability to have accident data from cockpit audio as well as image recorders is critical.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Issues in the air are being met with issues on the ground from last month's FAA computer system failure that paralyzed airports to southwest holiday travel melt down that cancelled more than 16,000 flights.

SCOTT KIRBY, UNITED AIRLINES CEO: The operating environment is much more difficult.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby predicts a rough year for aviation and says his airline is trying to control what it can.

Brand-new graduates from United's industry first flights school are now headed to new jobs, on their way to sure up pilot shortages at the airlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last integration of older pilots is starting to leave.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Industry figures say more people now work at major airlines than before the pandemic but the pressure is on to keep their safety record clean. PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: It takes a lot of work to keep it that way, and we need to make sure we continue advancing as we see more and more demand, more and more complexity, more and more technology coming into the national air space.

MUNTEAN: Aviation experts say that two near collisions on the runway are freak incidents on their own, but together they could hint that the aviation system right now is fragile, especially with so many new workers joining the industry. Tuesday's hearing officially kicks off the process of Congress setting the FAA's budget, a practice these latest headlines have made more interesting than ever.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right, Pete thank you for that.

All right, to sports now. The NBA has a new all-time scoring king as LeBron James breaks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record. It happened -- it happened last night. Andy Scholes has this morning's bleacher report.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Christine. You know, this is one of the biggest moments in NBA history. We haven't had a new all-time leading scorer in the NBA in 39 years. Last night LeBron needed 36 points and he got there near the end of the third quarter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LeBron, one-on-one against Kendrick Williams. Packing him in, turns, shoots. Scores! There he is. All hail the new king in town young and old gather round from one iconic Laker to another! The king LeBron James has passed the captain Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, and LeBron now stands alone as the NBA's all-time leading scorer.


SCHOLES: Yes, once LeBron set the new mark, the game was stopped for about ten minutes to celebrate the achievement. The new scoring king holding back tears. LeBron was joined on the court by his family, commissioner Adam Silver and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who handed LeBron the ball he used to break the record.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA ALL-TIME SCORING LEADER: To be able to be in the presence of such a legend and great as Kareem, this means so much to me. It is very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the captain, please. I would never ever in a million years have dreamt this even better than what it is tonight.


SCHOLES: Yes, LeBron would go on to finish with 38 points in the 133- 130 loss to the Thunder. He now has 38,390 points in his 20-year career. And Shaq asked LeBron on the TNT's postgame show if this cements his status as the greatest player ever.



SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, TNT POSTGAME SHOW: Are you just now making the greatest player of all time, well the G.O.A.T.?

JAMES: Oh, you know, I'm going to let everybody else decide who that is or just talk about it, but great barber shop talk.

O'NEAL: I want to hear you say it.

JAMES: Listen --

O'NEAL: I want to hear you say it Bron, Bron.

JAMES: Me personally --

O'NEAL: Say it, Bron.

JAMES: I'm going to take myself against anybody who ever played this game. You know, but everybody is going to have their favorite, everybody is going to, you know, decide who their favorite is. But I know what I brought to the table. I know what I bring to the table every single night. And what I can do out on this floor. So, you know, I always feel like I'm the best ever to play this game, but there are so many other great ones and I'm happy to be a part of their journey.


SCHOLES: Yes, and the debate will always go on, Christine, who is the best player of all time. Is it LeBron James. Is it Michael Jordan. But you know, no matter what side you are on that debate, there's no question that no one has been better for longer than LeBron. I mean, 20 years and still going strong. It's just incredible.

ROMANS: And consistency. I was talking to my boys last night, this is the consistent player, right. He is someone who just shows up, does the work, and excels every time. That consistency I think is a big part of his legacy, right.

SCHOLES: Certainly the longevity and the fact that he really hasn't had many injuries his entire career. It's helped him get to this point total and it's going to be hard to imagine someone breaking it one day.

ROMANS: What a cool night. Nice to see you, thanks Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Coming up on CNN this morning, President Biden goes toe to toe with Republican hecklers during his State of the Union address. Morning after analysis ahead. [04:50:00]


ROMANS: All right, your roman numeral this morning, 23. President Biden referred to a job or jobs at least 23 times last night.


BIDEN: It's going to create 10,000 jobs, that one investment; 7,000 construction jobs; 3,000 jobs in those factories once they're finished. They call them factors. Jobs paying an average of $130,000 a year.


ROMANS: 23 times in a written speech. He probably threw in a few unscripted as well. That's not counting the number of times that he said finish the job. He said that 13 times.

Looking at markets around the world right now. Asian markets finished lower, European markets are higher this morning. And on Wall Street, stock index futures this hour are leaning down. Stocks rose following remarks from Fed Chief Jerome Powell yesterday regarding inflation and the economy. The Dow up 265 points snapping a three day skid. The Nasdaq finishing the day up nearly 2 percent. A good day for the Nasdaq. Powell stressed that the pace of inflation is slowing, which is good news for Wall Street.

Plane maker Boeing announcing its plans to slash 2,000 HR and finance jobs.

And on earnings watch, Uber and Disney are set to report later today. And if you're watching, on inflated watch, gas prices fell a penny overnight now sitting at $3.45 a gallon.

All right, Zoom the latest tech firm to announce a round of job cuts, it will lay off 1300 workers or about 15 percent of its staff. In a memo to employees, Zoom's chief executive said he made mistakes in growing the company so quickly during the pandemic. The CEO and other executives, they're going to take a significant pay cut because of it.

All right, President Biden heckled by some Republicans during the state of the union. How he reacted, ahead.

And how many spying eyes in the sky does China really have.



ROMANS: Today Ukrainian President Zelenskyy making his first trip to the U.K. since Russia's invasion. He's expected to meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and to address Parliament. Let's go live to CNN's Clare Sebastian in London. What is Zelenskyy expected to talk about with the Prime Minister? CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, a really big

moment for President Zelenskyy. This will only be his second trip out of Ukraine since the war began almost a year ago. The first, if you remember, was to the United States.

The crucial announcements that we've got from Downing Street ahead of this meeting is that the U.K. is now set to expand its training program for Ukrainian soldiers to include pilots crucially and marines. Pilots in particular significant because we know Ukraine having succeeded in securing battle tanks from its allies is now pushing very hard for fighter jets.

The U.K. has not announced that it's going to provide fighter jets but it is now going to start training pilots to ensure that they will be equipped to fly NATO standard planes in the future. This is what the U.K. is calling a two pronged approach. An immediate acceleration to Ukraine to help to try to counter an expected Russian spring offensive and a longer term approach to try to give Ukraine the tools and skills to defend itself going forward.

Also crucially buried in the announcement from Downing Street, the U.K. is going to offer to provide Ukraine with longer range capabilities it says. We expect that that means longer range missiles, also something that Ukraine has been pushing hard for and that has previously not been offered by allies so fear that it could be used to hit Russian territory.

So what we're seeing is an escalation of Western support coming off the back of the comments by President Biden of course in the "State of the Union." All of this, Christine, of course coming at a crucial moment in the war as Ukraine prepares for what it thinks will be an uptick in Russian attacks.

ROMANS: All right, Clare Sebastian, thank you, Clare.

North Korea appears to be preparing its first military parade in nearly a year. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul for us this morning. What might Kim Jong-un reveal at this parade?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, experts pore over the images of these military parades because what it does is not only give Kim Jong-un is a chance to show the arsenal that he has, to show off his latest missiles. But it also shows potentially what he intends to do. So, what he is planning in the future.

So all of the military arsenal that will be on show if this parade goes ahead is going to be looked at very closely by intelligence agencies and experts around the world.

Now, it is an important day in North Korea, February 8, today which is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the military. And there has been parades on these kind of occasions before. This is expected to be a big one from what we have been hearing from commercial satellite imagery that's been pored over by international experts. They say that they have seen massive practicing for this. They have seen thousands of people in Kim Il-song's square where these parades take place. There's local reports as well of jets flying overhead in Pyongyang. So

this all points to the fact that we could well in the coming hours see a parade in North Korea. Of course it may be many hours later that we actually hear about it. But I say all this is potential, Christine, because it is North Korea. And you can never really guarantee anything. You have to say potentially. Because until it actually happens, we simply don't know.

But it is a very important military time. Just today there were photos of Kim Jong-un, his wife and believed to be his daughter at military barracks praising the officers there, also saying that he wanted to see a strengthening of the military. And just a day after he has said that he wants to see war readiness increase in the country -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Paula, thank you so much for that and staying on that for us.

And thanks to joining me. I'm Christine Romans. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to the end of the third quarter. LeBron James, a shot at history. And there it is! LeBron stands alone! The NBA's all-time scoring record now belongs to LeBron James.