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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Lukashenko To Meet Putin, Blames Ukraine For Invasion; Tiger Finishes Strong In First Official Event Since July; Tesla Accused Of Firing Union Supporters. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 17, 2023 - 05:30   ET



NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: And, in fact, we are now seeing aid being transferred across the border from Turkey into northwest Syria but there simply needs to be more. That's the message from these aid groups, from the United Nations particularly, of course, after so many years of war -- of conflicts in northwest Syria.

And we have seen here in Istanbul families now beginning to be evacuated to this city, many of them left with absolutely nothing.

But these humanitarian assistance programs, these evacuations are providing a vital lifeline -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Nada Bashir. Thank you so much from Istanbul for us this morning.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko meeting just minutes from now with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Lukashenko blamed Ukraine for Russia's invasion at a rare press conference this week saying he will not attack Kyiv unless provoked and that he wants to host peace talks with the U.S.


ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, PRESIDENT OF BELARUS (through translator): Convey this message to him via your channels. We are ready to welcome him in Minsk and have a serious discussion if he wants peace in Ukraine. And even Putin will fly in here to Minsk and we will meet as a trio here in Minsk -- two aggressors and the peace-loving president.


ROMANS: That's our own Fred Pleitgen asking him that question there.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is with us this morning from London. Is Putin trying to convince Belarus to join his war?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, that is the big question and one that's been asked really throughout this conflict because don't forget Belarus was the launching point for that initial push that Russia made in the first weeks of the war that failed towards the capital of Kyiv. It shares a 600-plus mile border with Ukraine.

Now, Lukashenko, as you pointed out, has denied that he's going to get involved. He said that Russia has, in fact -- has, in fact, actually not asked him and that he would only do so if Belarus was directly attacked. But we have seen an uptick in military exercises -- joint military exercises between the two countries recently on the territory of Belarus not far from the border.

A CNN team -- CNN's Fred Pleitgen visited that border area accompanied by Belarusian soldiers and they talked about tension. You could see fortifications on the Ukrainian side.

Now there is a purpose to that even if there isn't a plan to launch an offensive through that border, which is to keep Ukrainian forces concentrated there so they cannot be elsewhere on the other front.

And I think, Christine, there's another purpose to this meeting today between Putin and Lukashenko and that is an element of counterprogramming, really, to show that Russia is not isolated even as we see this big show of Western unity taking place at the Munich Security Conference -- Christine.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right, Clare Sebastian, that's right -- Russia disinvited from that Munich Security Conference. Nice to see you, Clare.

All right, quick hits across the -- around the globe right now.

Canada will deploy naval ships to the coast of Haiti in a few weeks to gather intelligence and maintain a presence there as gang violence surges in that country.

Protesters in Lebanon blocking roads and setting banks on fire. The nation's kurdsi (PH) nosediving to record lows after the central bank adjusted the exchange rate.

Spain approving teen abortions and transgender protections while becoming the first European country to give workers access to paid menstrual leave.

A major airport terminal closed today. What's wrong at JFK just ahead. And the new trend in takeout food, ghost kitchens. Not as scary as it sounds.



ROMANS: Here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

The five ex-Memphis police officers facing murder charges in the beating death of Tyre Nichols are set to be arraigned in criminal court together this morning.

The defense set to cross-examine a special investigator in the Alex Murdaugh double-murder trial. On Thursday, jurors heard his interview with Murdaugh who confesses to masterminding a plot to have himself murdered.

The international terminal at New York's JFK Airport closed today after a power outage. Officials say an electrical panel failure caused a small, isolated fire overnight that was quickly put out.

All right, Tiger Woods overcomes a slow start to finish in his first official tournament action in seven months.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report from Salt Lake City, site of this weekend's NBA All-Star Game. Hey, there.


Yes, the first ones on the court here in Utah for the All-Star festivities this weekend. And it all gets started with the Rising Stars Challenge tonight here in Utah. We'll have more on all the festivities in a moment.

But first, Tiger Woods back in action for the first time since missing the cut at the British Open this past July. He's taking part in the Genesis Invitational. Now, this was the tournament Tiger played in before his car accident nearly two years ago.

Tiger started off a bit rusty but he rallied late to birdie his last three holes to finish at 2-under, five shots off the lead.

And afterwards, Tiger said he wouldn't be playing if he didn't think he could win.


TIGER WOODS, 15-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: Absolutely -- that's the only reason why I teed up. And they'll come a point in time when I can't do this anymore and -- but right now I feel like I still can. Even the right golf course.

I was trying to call myself down all day trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing out here because I haven't played. I had to try and figure out what the -- what the chess -- the chess match is going to be. You know, misses, angles, wind -- these are all things that have come second nature to a lot of these guys. I haven't really done this in a while.


SCHOLES: Now the Suns, meanwhile, introducing Kevin Durant yesterday. The Suns now the favorites in the Western Conference about the big blockbuster trade.

And yesterday K.D. -- well, he talked about his time in Brooklyn and why things didn't work out with his former teammates Kyrie Irving and James Harden.


KEVIN DURANT, FORWARD, PHOENIX SUNS: We just didn't get on the court enough. I think when you seen James, Kyrie, and myself it was -- it was amazing basketball for 17 games though. But you need -- in order for you to win a championship and be a great team you just need more time on the floor.



SCHOLES: Now, Durant, of course, voted as a starter for the All-Star Game but he's not going to be participating this year as he's still recovering from an injured knee. But so many great players will be here in Utah for this weekend's festivities.

You can watch it all on our sister channel TNT. Get started with that Rising Stars Challenge game later on tonight here from Salt Lake City. You've got Rising Stars tonight, 3-Point Slam Dunk tomorrow, and then, of course, the big event is the Sunday night NBA All-Star Game.

And our friends over at "INSIDE THE NBA" -- they were live here in Utah and had a huge crowd on hand last night for their show. Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith even tried their luck at sliding down the hill of snow. And with the game here in Salt Lake City I asked the guys -- well, are they any good at skiing?


SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, SPORTS ANALYST, TNT's "INSIDE THE NBA": If you give me some information I may tomorrow.

CHARLES BARKLEY, SPORTS ANALYST, TNT's "INSIDE THE NBA": Black people don't ski. I keep telling you all that. We don't do cold stuff.


SCHOLES: There you go. And Poppy Harlow is going to be here in just a few minutes, Christine, and she has a great interview with all of the guys. You don't want to miss that on "CNN THIS MORNING."

ROMANS: I know. Poppy -- oh. Well, tell her I said hi. I know she's around there somewhere.

Thank you. Nice to see you, Andy -- Andy Scholes.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman checks himself into the hospital with depression. How's he doing this morning?

And next right here, trouble on two fronts for Tesla.



ROMANS: All right, you Romans' Numeral this morning, 16.9 trillion -- $16.9 trillion as in U.S. household debt hitting a record there during the fourth quarter. That's a $394 billion increase or 2.4 percent from the quarter before. The Federal Reserve says most of it is mortgages but credit card balances also grew at record levels.

Looking at markets around the world this Friday morning, European markets are lower. Asian markets finished the week down as well. A big loss there for Hong Kong. And on Wall Street, stock index futures continuing their trend from yesterday. Stocks spooked by still-hot factory inflation coupled with very low layoffs, a sign the Fed has more work to do.

U.S. wholesale prices jumped 0.7 percent last month from the month before. That's the biggest monthly gain since last summer. Whiffs of inflation pushing up mortgage rates to an average of 6.32 percent for a 30-year fixed the second week in a row.

On inflation watch, gas prices though held steady at $3.42 a gallon.

All right. Chipotle opening a delivery-only restaurant -- a so-called "ghost kitchen." Other food brands also jumping in on this ghost kitchen trend.

I want to bring in CNN Business reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn who covers all things retail for us. What is a ghost kitchen, and how is this new restaurant going to operate, Nathaniel?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Right, Christine. So Chipotle doesn't just want to be known for burritos. They're opening this ghost kitchen restaurant, which is just delivery and takeout only. You can't sit down. It's usually in a smaller location.

This one's going to be in California. It's called Farmesa. And it's protein bowls, salmon, and steak. It's going to cost about $12.00 a bowl to $17.00.

Chipotle is not the only brand that's jumping in on ghost kitchens. You see Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, Wingstop -- they're all opening these ghost kitchens. They're cheaper to operate than opening a traditional restaurant. You don't have to hire as many workers (audio gap) smaller space. And because delivery and takeout has gotten so popular it's appealing to customers.

ROMANS: Interesting.

MEYERSOHN: Although it is a little weird when you're on -- you're searching on DoorDash or Uber Eats and you see a restaurant that you've never heard of and --


MEYERSOHN: -- it's a little bit confusing.

ROMANS: Interesting.

OK, I want to talk about the luxury brand Neiman Marcus raising some eyebrows by going after a niche, and that niche is rich -- really rich.

MEYERSOHN: Really rich. Really rich.

ROMANS: How rich?

MEYERSOHN: Very rich -- about -- people who make between $5,000 and $10,000 -- excuse me, $5 million and $10 million a year -- high net worth individuals --


MEYERSOHN: -- that are spending about $27,000 annually at Neiman Marcus. So I don't think we're going to be going to Neiman Marcus anytime soon.

But this is reflective of luxury spending being driven by super-rich folks. And look, it's very elitist of Neiman Marcus. It kind of raises some eyebrows. But brands have target customers that they chase so usually it's just not quite as open about it.

ROMANS: I think it's the opposite of the dollar stores -- what you're telling me.


ROMANS: The very opposite.

OK, and speed dating is making a comeback -- speed dating. What's going on?

MEYERSOHN: So, singles are tired of swipes and dating apps. They want to meet in person. I know I certainly am tired of those -- of those -- of those swipes.

But -- so Eventbrite, the ticketing platform, says that there are about 11,000 events mentioning singles and dating over the past year. That was a 25 percent increase from pre-COVID levels and it shows that people are tired of swiping. They want to meet in person. They want to do activities. And it's -- so it's reflective of these broader changes.

We also see inflation impacting the way that folks --

ROMANS: Interesting.

MEYERSOHN: -- are dating. No more pricey first dates -- pricey meals for first dates. People are going to the -- walks in the park, grabbing coffee. A little bit cheaper. So people are really looking to interact in person rather than swiping.

ROMANS: I'm a big fan of the free night at the museum. That's a perfect first date, right?

All right, nice to see you. Thanks, Nathaniel Meyersohn.

All right, Tesla is recalling all 363,000 U.S. vehicles with its full self-driving software due to safety risks. This recall notice says the system may allow a vehicle to travel through intersection while in a turn-only lane. It could enter a stop sign intersection without completely stopping or enter an intersection during a yellow signal without caution.


Now, the chief executive Elon Musk plans to fix the $15,000 feature with an over-the-air update, right, so you don't have to actually drive the car to a dealer to have it recalled and fixed. And that's why he says the word recall is in anachronistic and quote "just flat wrong."

Tesla also now accused of firing more than 30 workers at its plant in Buffalo, New York just days after an effort to unionize was announced. Tesla denies the accusation saying the layoffs were for, quote, "poor performance."

Let's bring in chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners, Jessica Kriegel. Good morning. This could backfire on Tesla, couldn't it?

JESSICA KRIEGEL, CHIEF SCIENTIST OF WORKPLACE CULTURE, CULTURE PARTNERS (via Webex by Cisco): Absolutely. It absolutely will backfire. And I cannot stress enough the significance of this moment. There is a wave of anti-work sentiment that is growing and it is going to continue to grow until it reaches a boiling point.

And what is happening right now with Tesla is their employees are saying we don't feel heard. We don't feel like we're part of the decision-making process in our processes. We're not paid enough. And that's not going to stand anymore.

And the reaction that Elon had by firing them is just going to make things worse. That's leading with fear and it's going to galvanize the rest of the employees to continue to try and unionize, and it's going to be a headache for Elon.

ROMANS: A headache for Elon -- one of many headaches for Elon Musk.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found the top CEOs in the U.S. are paid 399 times more than typical workers in 2021. That's a huge gap.

Is there more to what's driving workers to unionize?

KRIEGLER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, since 1978 worker compensation has increased by 18 percent. CEO compensation in that same time has increased 1,322 percent. People are fed up with it.

And what's going to make it worse for CEOs is the fact that since 2008 there has been a 30 percent drop in the birth rate and higher-ed institutions are preparing for an enrollment cliff in 2025. There's going to be 15 percent less people going into the higher-ed institutions in two years. And that is going to turn into a workplace cliff -- a workforce cliff a few years later, or even in 2025 for people who go straight into the workforce after high school. So as employees become more scarce their demands are going to become --


KRIEGEL: -- louder. Their value is going to increase, and CEOs are going to have to listen. And, in fact, the CEOs who are listening are going to have a differentiated workforce that's going to win. And that is what CEOs need to know right now, is they have to listen to their employees.

ROMANS: Interesting. You're right -- it is a really critical moment and those demographics are really interesting.

What's your advice for bosses, I guess, when it comes to unions right now?

KRIEGEL: I would say that you can prevent unionization by listening actively to your employees. Having conversations, encouraging your managers to listen. And also to beware of the consequences of not doing that.

I mean, we're looking at the Ohio train derailment right now, one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history. The railroad workers have been complaining for the last year about crumbling infrastructure, about being overworked and understaffed. And that could have been prevented if the leaders at that organization had perhaps listened to the employees and now the consequences to the company are going to be astronomical financially. So they could have saved money if they listened to their employees.

ROMANS: Interesting.

KRIEGEL: It's the right thing to do and it's going to save on the bottom line.

ROMANS: All right, Jess Kriegel. Nice to see you this Friday -- Culture Partners. Nice to see you. Thanks, Jess.

KRIEGEL: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Next on "CNN THIS MORNING" what President Biden is now telling Americans about those mystery objects shot out of the sky.

And next, what if "STARSKY & HUTCH" were women?


Clip from ABC's "STARSKY & HUTCH."




ROMANS: Our top of the morning this Friday morning, the top songs streaming on Amazon Music.

Here is number one.




ROMANS: Mylie Cyrus with "Flowers."

And here is number two.


SZA, SINGER: Singing "Kill Bill."


ROMANS: That's a good one -- "Kill Bill" by SZA.

And coming in at number three --




ROMANS: Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero."

All right, sad news here. Actor Bruce Willis' family revealing he has been diagnosed with a form of dementia. It is called frontotemporal dementia. It's also known as FTD. It affects areas of the brain that are generally associated with personality, behavior, language. There is no treatment for the disease.

In a statement, Willis' family says the news is painful but they're relieved to finally have a clear diagnosis.

We wish them all well -- the whole family as they help him in this process.

All right, a famous T.V. crimefighting duo could be making a comeback.


Clip from ABC's "STARSKY & HUTCH."


ROMANS: That'll take you back.

Fox is reportedly developing a remake of the 1970s cop show "STARSKY & HUTCH." David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser were the original stars along with, of course, the car. A movie revival starred Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson back in 2004. I missed that one.

The Hollywood Reporter says a new version would have two.