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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today: Final Talks Over Northern Ireland Brexit Protocols; At Least Nine Tornadoes Reported As Storms Strike Central U.S.; Newspapers Drop Comic After Creator's Racist Tirade. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 27, 2023 - 05:30   ET



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This means so much to because they think that the way that the deal stands right now cuts them off from mainland U.K. They'll be scrutinizing it. They may take -- they may take hours; they may take days to do that.

And their even harder-line supporters -- the loyalists in Northern Ireland have threatened that if they don't like what they see there will be violence.

And if the main unionist party -- the DUP -- don't like what they see then that means this power-sharing government in Northern Ireland that came out of that Good Friday peace agreement almost 25 years ago -- that won't get back up and running.

So, huge things hang on this. The sort of picture if you will of the agreement today in mainland U.K. -- yes, that seems set. What happens in Northern Ireland, that's the open question.

What's likely to be in there? Making trade between mainland U.K. and Northern Ireland easier. Maybe green lanes and red lanes. Green lanes for traffic and goods that are only going from U.K. to Northern Ireland, and then a red lane for goods that are going from mainland U.K. through Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU. That's the big conundrum.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. All of -- all of the Brexit snags still trying to work out.

All right, Nic Robertson. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

Ahead, SpaceX scrubbing its scheduled launch to the International Space Station overnight. And how to beat those rising prices for airline tickets.



ROMANS: All right. At least nine tornadoes reported overnight across the Southern Plains; seven of them in Oklahoma where tens of thousands of customers are without power this morning.

Chad Myers tracking this system for us. Where is this heading now, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, central Ohio. I mean, that's really what -- we're not going to see this type of weather that we saw in Oklahoma City but that's where the bulk of the severe weather would happen today.

Some of these nine tornadoes may actually be the same tornadoes starting in Mclean, Oklahoma, moving through Norman, Oklahoma, and then all the way up towards Shawnee. Wind damage, though -- these storms -- some of them were moving at 90 miles per hour. The highest gust I could find is 114 in Memphis, Texas.

So here goes the storm. Still seeing some showers and a little bit of thunder and lightning across parts of Chicago. This is the center of the bulk of the activity today. There will be a lot of wind across the south behind the storm -- 40 to 50 miles per hour easy there, so be careful if you're driving here, especially high-profile vehicles.

And then a snow event for the northeast. Here is the severe weather for today but here's how this shapes up. We take you and move you ahead until 1:00 or so. Thunderstorms still firing on the warm side.

But then there's a cold side by tonight, especially by midnight. It will be snowing in the city. It will be snowing in Boston. I'm not sure I've said that the entire year. Snow in Boston. Snow across I-95. And so maybe a difficult commute.

A little bit more difficult up here where there will be ice. But, yes, with snow in the big cities and I-95 and especially, the Catskills, tomorrow morning could be quite a challenge, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, duly noted. Chad Myers, nice to see you. Thank you, sir.

MYERS: Good to see you.

ROMANS: Newspapers across the U.S. are dropping the "Dilbert" comic strip after the creator, Scott Adams, went on a stunning racist tirade this weekend calling Black Americans a hate group and advising white people to stay away from them. It was a YouTube rant.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine, good morning.

Well, over the weekend I watched one of Scott Adams' latest YouTube strains -- all of it -- and in it, he makes repeated attempts to justify his controversial comments. He insists that they were all taken out of context and that he simply encouraged people to avoid hate altogether.

But nonetheless, his comments have certainly lit a massive firestorm here and have resulted in some of the nation's largest newspapers dropping his "Dilbert" comic strip after over three decades of publication. And here's how it all started last week. Adams addressed a poll from

conservative firm Rasmussen Reports. It said 53 percent of Black Americans agreed with the statement "It's OK to be white." And by the way, that's the phrase that according to the Anti-Defamation League has a history in white supremacist movements.

So basically, he addressed that poll in his YouTube channel last week, and here's how.


SCOTT ADAMS, CREATOR, "DILBERT": So if nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people, according to this poll -- not according to me, according to this poll -- that's a hate group. That's a hate group and I don't want to have anything to do with them. And I would say based on the current way things are going the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people.


SANDOVAL: The USA Today Network, which operates hundreds of newspapers across the country -- they are among the companies removing "Dilbert" from their pages, as is The Washington Post, which said that it believes that Adams' comments promote segregation. And Cleveland's The Plain Dealer -- the editor of that publication calling Adams' comments part of a quote "racist rant."

Defending the cartoonist, however, Tesla CEO Elon Musk. He took to Twitter over the weekend accusing the media of being quote "racist against whites and Asians."

As for the distributor of the "Dilbert" comic strip, they have not immediately responded to CNN's request for comment, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Polo Sandoval. Thank you so much for that. Watch this space.

If you're planning to travel this summer, you may want to start tracking airfares now. Prices are likely much higher than the last time you booked a flight.

Let's bring in Zach Wichter, consumer travel reporter at USA Today. Nice to see you, Zach.

ZACH WICHTER, CONSUMER TRAVEL REPORT, USA TODAY: Yes, nice to be back. Thanks for having me on.

ROMANS: So I've been watching these numbers and on average, U.S. domestic fares -- well, in January, were up 26 percent compared with last year. These are -- Hopper data show them up 20 percent from February 2020 -- a little bit more moderate increase from 2019, right? But basically, we are seeing airfares rise. Why?


WICHTER: Yes. It really just comes down to basic supply and demand. More people want to travel now that the pandemic recovery is well underway than they did in 2020 and 2021 but airlines are still smaller than they were pre-pandemic. And so what we're seeing is there are more people who want to fly than the airlines themselves can fly and that's pushing prices up.

ROMANS: Yes. We recently spoke to the CEO of United who was saying that look, you can expect some mayhem here while they try to work out this huge travel demand. They also have labor issues -- some labor shortages in some places -- so they don't want to put a lot of planes out there that they're not going to be able to fill and take off. They can fill them but there's a lot of other factors as well.

So talk to me about the spike in airlines bumping passengers.

WICHTER: Yes, that's a great question.

And I think basically what's happening -- again, it comes down to this supply and demand issue. Airlines have always historically oversold flights and they're still doing that, but their data now isn't as good as it was pre-pandemic. Travel patterns have changed somewhat and so airlines are having a harder time predicting how many people are going to show up to those flights that they -- that they've oversold.

So what we're seeing is more people are being involuntarily denied boarding than they were pre-pandemic as airlines are really just trying to figure out what these new travel patterns mean for them.

ROMANS: And there has to be compensation for that, right?

WICHTER: Oh, yes -- absolutely. If you are involuntarily denied boarding the Department of Transportation requires airlines to compensate you. There are different thresholds depending on how long the delay of your arrival is and where you're going, but the DOT website really spells that out.

ROMANS: OK. So if you're going to take the kids on that first -- that first trip to Europe or an international ticket because you have been home for three years, they're a lot more expensive than pre-pandemic.

What's happening there? What region is the most expensive?

WICHTER: Yes, they certainly are.

From what I've seen -- the data that I've seen -- it seems like Asia is actually the most expensive right now. And again, it just comes down to supply and demand. As countries open back up people have more choices in where they can go, and demand patterns are shifting as people try to go different places than they could during the pandemic.

ROMANS: All right, Zach Wichter, USA Today. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

WICHTER: Yes, thanks again for having me on.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

All right, Damian Lillard put on a historic performance scoring 71 points in the Blazers' win last night.

There he is. Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, 71 points, Christine. Good morning.

Damian Lillard -- he's developed this kind of vibe during this 11-year NBA career in Portland and it's called "Dame Time." Last night, the Houston Rockets felt the full force of it.

The seven-time All-Star says he went into attack mode. This man was scoring at-will from inside, from outside, from way outside. Look at him on the logo at half-court, Christine.

Dame came in averaging a league-best 36 points per game in the month of February. He had 41 in the first half alone. But Houston kept hanging around, so Lillard kept cooking. His 13 three-pointers on the night second only to Klay Thompson's record for most ever in a game with 14.

And Lillard was on another level, even dunking in this game. We don't see that very often from Dame. Sorry, Jabari Smith.

Rip City gets the win. Lillard becoming just the eighth player with 70-plus points in a game and the oldest to ever do it at 32 years old.

Here's Dame after the game.


DAMIAN LILLAR, GUARD, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: We got, I think, 23-22 games left after this and we need to win as many as possible. And obviously, being shorthanded I know that it's going to be a team effort but I feel like I've got to do my best to be aggressive and just try to do what I can to make sure that we get some wins.

And that's all the case was tonight. I wanted to be in attack mode. I got it going and I just stayed aggressive.


WIRE: Big match-up -- LeBron and the Lakers facing off against Luka and the Mavs.

Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes is there and he knows all about comebacks and gutting through an ankle injury, right?

Well, LeBron goes down awkwardly in the third, hurting his ankle -- grabbing it there. Lakers fans holding their collective breaths. You can see LeBron say I heard a pop. He's already missed more than a dozen games this season but he taped it up and kept battling. He was not going to come out of this game.

His Lakers were down by 27 at one point, Christine. Teams were 0-138 this season when down by that much but not anymore. The Lake show showing grit, storming back with 26 points from LeBron and a game-high 30 from Anthony Davis -- the biggest comeback in the NBA this season as L.A. gets the win.

College hoops now. Top 10 clash with a dramatic finish. Number two Indiana with -- up two with one second to go, but Caitlin Clark sending Iowa City into a frenzy -- absolutely. The number-six Iowa superstar sinking the buzzer-beating three. Hoosiers are stunned. Clark finishes with 34 points, nine assists, nine rebounds, and says afterwards, that's exactly how she envisions it.


CAITLAN CLARK, GUARD, IOWA HAWKEYES: When I'm in here working by myself those are the situations you put yourself in. I'm going to be able to do it for this team on senior day against the number-two team in the country. It meant a lot, so it's for our seniors more than anything.



WIRE: Houston Cougars' centerfielder Drew Bianco throwing his name in the hat for play of the day, Christine. Watch this. Bottoms up, flipping over the wall at full speed -- unreal catch. He turns out to be OK and he's got the ball in his glove.

My goodness. Having some fun to start your morning for you. I bet you weren't expecting all that action.

ROMANS: I love it. I love it. That's a great way to -- that's a great way to start the day, right? I need a day like that where I come up with the -- with the ball.

All right, nice to see you, Coy Wire.

WIRE: You, too.

ROMANS: All right, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" tornadoes touched down overnight in Oklahoma. Where the severe weather is headed now.

And next right here, yes, it's bare minimum Monday. Why some workers say they are cyber-loafing to start their week.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning is fewer than 2,000. That's how many employees now left at Twitter. At least 200 more Twitter workers laid off over the weekend -- product managers, data scientists, engineers whose work keeps Twitter's features up and running. The team which oversees how Twitter makes money -- well, that was also cut from 30 people to fewer than eight.

All right, looking at markets around the world right now, Asian markets closed lower this morning. European markets have closed -- or have opened higher with Paris -- a nice bump there in Paris and Frankfurt. On Wall Street, stock index futures right now are also rebounding.

You know, last week, after a strong start to 2023, it was the worst weekly decline in more than two months. That's a tough week. Inflation concerns are rattling investors after that Fed's preferred inflation gauge came in hotter than expected.

And brand new this morning, a new survey shows business economists are divided, confused, and unsure about where the U.S. economy is headed. You can blame hot inflation data, even after eight interest rate hikes, and still robust job growth.

It sets up another critical week for home sales data, consumer confidence reading, weekly jobless claims, and a raft of retail earnings. And there on inflation watch, gas prices holdings steady overnight, now at $3.37 a gallon. And there's your calendar there.

First there was quite quitting. Now there is bare minimum Monday.

Let's bring in Jessica Kriegel, chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners. This is another TikTok trend, right? The quiet quitting got a lot of attention. What is a bare minimum Monday?

JESSICA KRIEGEL, CHIEF SCIENTIST OF WORKPLACE CULTURE, CULTURE PARTNERS (via Webex by Cisco): I mean, add it to the list, Christine, of all of these terms that we've been trying to decode. It plays perfectly into what you just said about economists are baffled about what's going on and so are people in the workplace -- so are CEOs.

We don't understand who has the power, what's OK, what's not OK, and so we're coming up with these terms. And we're not having the deeper conversations about why do we need to be so productivity-obsessed. What does productivity even mean?

And bare minimum Monday is just another one of these terms to try and make sense of the world. It is the idea that we should somehow do less work on Mondays in an attempt to do more self-care so that we can in the long term be more productive. It's just more trying to make sense of the world.

ROMANS: I can see bosses rolling their eyes at their slacker young workforce. But you say there are some ways to make Mondays more productive. There's a way to have this conversation the right way.

KRIEGEL: Yes. I would say to those CEOs and those bosses who are rolling their eyes that sometimes we have to set aside what is urgent in order to focus on what's important, and that is what bare minimum Mondays is trying to accomplish. It's one of many tools.

And what I would say is on Mondays -- first of all, they've already been bare minimum before we labeled them bare minimum.

Most people come in. They kind of check their email to get things cleaned up. They go talk at the water cooler. They have a chat with someone on the phone if you're working from home. And then by then it's lunchtime. We have to have a couple of stand-up meetings. And Mondays are barely ever productive. So instead, what if we were intentional about spending some time

creating space on our calendar -- no meetings -- so that we can do the deep work of understanding what the big projects are that need our prioritization and focus so that we can actually do more productive work over the long-term.

ROMANS: You know, we've been talking so much about a four-day workweek. This TikToker who made this popular said this whole trend is a rejection of all the pressure she felt on Sunday and Monday. Maybe a four-day workweek in certain sectors could take the pressure off here.

KRIEGEL: Yes. A lot of people who are working from home are already taking four-day workweeks unofficially. I mean, it may not be a policy at their organizations. But when we work from home this term cyber- loafing is the idea that we're not doing work during work time.

And people who work from home are many times not doing work during quote-unquote business hours. They're going to games with their children. They're dropping people off at school. They are dealing with sick kids and not even at their computers.

So this is about being flexible and when we do work, being open to the idea that productivity is a long game, not a short game.

ROMANS: Yes. This is -- in my view, this also isn't generational because we've hated Mondays for a long time. I'm thinking of Garfield the cat comic strip "I Hate Mondays," right? This is -- we just don't like Mondays.

Jessica Kriegel, nice to see you. Happy Monday morning. Have a very productive day.

KRIEGEL: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

A nationwide ruling today could block access to a common abortion pill. How providers are preparing, ahead. And how the U.S. could respond if China sends drones and ammunition to Russia.



ROMANS: All right. Our top of the morning, the top movies at the box office.


Clip from Marvel Entertainment's "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."


ROMANS: "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" is number one but down sharply from last week's open. "Ant-Man" almost caught by a bear.


Clip from Universal Pictures "Cocaine Bear."


ROMANS: "Cocaine Bear" roaring into second place.

And here is number three.


Clip from Kingdom Story Company's "Jesus Revolution."


ROMANS: "Jesus Revolution" beat predictions for a $15 million open.

All right. SpaceX counting down overnight only to scrub the launch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: Minus two minutes, 30 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2: L.D. on countdown one. Hold, hold, hold. They're sending down to do a TEA-TEB ground issue.


ROMANS: The trip to the International Space Station called off with just two minutes to go on the clock.


There was a problem with the fluid used to ignite the SpaceX Falcon 9's rocket engines.

The next opportunity for lift-off is tomorrow, if the issue is resolved in time.

Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans this Monday morning. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.