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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Cyclone Mocha Batters Western Myanmar, Bangladesh; California Man Stolen At Birth Reunites With Chilean Half-Sister; Grizzlies Suspend Morant Again For Appearing To Flash Gun. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 15, 2023 - 05:30   ET



PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- then the military-backed party that's in power at the moment move forward as a progressive party. They have campaigned on a policy of keeping the military out of politics and they have won the most votes according to the unofficial result, which will be official in about five days according to the electoral commission.

What they've also said is they want deep structural reforms of the military, of the economy, and also the once untouchable monarchy. This was something that just a number of years ago was a taboo subject. You could only speak about it behind closed doors. But this party has now turned reform of the monarchy into a public debate.

But what happens now is that this party has to form a coalition. They have to have as many parties -- like-minded parties on their side as possible because over recent years when military-backed parties have been in power they have changed the constitution, which means the deck is stacked in their favor. So they need as many votes as possible from MPs to be able to secure the prime ministership for their person.

In fact, they have said that they understand this will be difficult but all the progressive parties have agreed to band together and agreed to work together to make sure that democracy is respected and that the will of the people is respected -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN EARLY START HOST: All right, Paula. Thank you so much for that.

Now to western Myanmar and Bangladesh where Tropical Cyclone Mocha pummeled the coastlines as it made landfall Sunday. Winds up to 195 miles per hour blew roofs off buildings, uprooted trees, and brought down power lines. Thousands of people are now sheltering in evacuation centers.

CNN's Vedika Sud joins us from New Delhi. The images are just terrifying. We're learning now that the system is weakening as it heads east. What's the situation on the ground this morning?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: That is true but very little is known right now, Christine, on the situation on the ground off the western coast of Myanmar because that's what's been impacted the most by this tropical cyclone. It was wind speed over 210 kilometers per hour. The last time there was a cyclone as severe as this was about 10 years

or, rather, more than that -- about 15 years in 2010 I believe, when more than 150 lives were lost and more than 15,000 homes were destroyed by a tropical cyclone in the western coast of Myanmar.

So here is what we know. We know that the most impacted areas are within the state of Rakhine in western Myanmar.

There's a city called Sittwe that's been completely demolished according to reports. We are waiting to hear from officials on what really is happening on the ground there. The storm surge has been as high as 3.5 meters because of which low-lying areas in Sittwe are completely inundated. Like you said, trees have been uprooted and roofs have blown off. So more details are awaited as of now because the comms are down, the power is down, the internet is down.

But it's been a huge relief for the country of Bangladesh -- the neighboring country of Bangladesh and here is why. They were expecting this cyclone to pummel through Cox's Bazar, which has the largest refugee settlement in the world -- over a million people there. And it seems to have veered off Cox's Bazar and gone towards the western coast of Myanmar, and that has been hugely impacted.

It might take days, it might take weeks to understand the extent of damage there but we're waiting to hear more from the officials on the ground, Christine.

ROMANS: Of course. All right, still early hours. Thank you so much, Vedika Sud.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan now calling for freedom protests nationwide after he was released on bail Friday. His arrest last week triggered deadly clashes between the military and his supporters.

At least 13 people were killed after a van collided with the back of a cargo truck in northern Mexico. Authorities say the truck that had been pulling the freight trailer was gone when rescue crews arrived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a winner. Sweden, you have won.


ROMANS: All right. Swedish singer Loreen wins the Eurovision song contest with "Tattoo" for a historic second time. The U.K. hosted the show celebrating Ukraine. Ukraine won last year's honors but couldn't hold the event this year, obviously, because of the war.

All right, just ahead, Yosemite campgrounds shut down over flood threats. And controversy surrounds Ja Morant again.

(COMMERCIAL) [05:38:31]

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

The Fulton County, Georgia district attorney must respond to a motion by Donald Trump's legal team today. They want Fani Willis disqualified from investigating 2020 election interference.

Three campgrounds in Yosemite National Park are closing today. Park officials say it's due to record snow melt that has prompted yet another flood forecast.

Chicago's mayor-elect Brandon Johnson set to be sworn in today. He will be the 57th mayor of America's third-largest city and arguably its most progressive yet.

All right, Chile's dark legacy during the Augusto Pinochet regime -- the stealing and selling of babies to adoption agencies -- is still being uncovered and understood today.

CNN's Rafael Romo has the story of one of those babies.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She doesn't speak English --


ROMO (voice-over): -- and his Spanish is basic.



LIEBERMAN: (Speaking foreign language).

MARDONES: (Speaking foreign language).

ROMO (voice-over): Just a few weeks ago they were perfect strangers but now they hug as if they have known each other their entire lives.

What brought them together was a DNA test that proved Scott Lieberman, an American, and Jenny Escalona Mardones from Chile are half-siblings.

LIEBERMAN: She's my half-sister.

ROMO (voice-over): Lieberman says it was at that moment he knew he had to travel to Chile. When he arrived in Concepcion they shared a hug that had to wait 42 years.


LIEBERMAN: Very good. It's like almost all my family is here. It's incredible. Like, it's so much love. ROMO (on camera): Scott Lieberman says he always knew that he was adopted from Chile. What he did not know was the whole truth about how the adoption happened. A few months ago he found out that in the '70s and '80s there had been many cases of babies stolen in Chile and sold to adoption agencies and began to wonder if the same thing had happened to him.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I didn't know what happened. I lived 42 years of my life without knowing that I was stolen. Knowing what was happening down in Chile during the '70s and '80s. And I just -- I want people to know. People need to know. There are families out there that can still be reunited.

ROMO (voice-over): During the last decade, CNN has documented multiple cases of babies who were stolen at birth in Chile. During the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet babies were funneled to adoption agencies -- some from upper classes taken or given up to protect reputations, and some from lower classes where children were simply stolen.

Chilean authorities say many priests, nuns, doctors, nurses, and others conspired to carry out illegal adoptions. Authorities told us the number of stolen babies could be in the thousands but the investigation into the adoptions has languished over the years.

Scott Lieberman is one of the lucky few. With the help of Nos Buscamos, a Chilean organization dedicated to reuniting families, and the support of MyHeritage, an online DNA company, he was able to find his half-sister in Chile and prove they were related.

MARDONES: (Speaking foreign language).

ROMO (voice-over): Jenny Escalona Mardones learned the truth when she got a call from a volunteer at Nos Buscamos.

MARDONES (through translator): That was very shocking for me. It was something I can't describe -- an emotion. A feeling that has yet to sink in.

ROMO (voice-over): They recently visited the tomb of Rosa Mardones, their mother, who died of bone cancer in 2015. The 58-year-old died not knowing her son was still alive and would return home to Chile less than a decade later.

MARDONES (through translator): Never, ever did my mother talk about the fact that she had a child and that it had been stolen. It was the painful truth that she kept to herself for many years. I even think that her pain took her away.

ROMO (voice-over): After spending a few unforgettable days with his Chilean family, Scott Lieberman returned home to San Francisco. But he's already planning to return to the country of his birth in August to celebrate his birthday. The half-siblings have made each other a promise -- let's make up for lost time.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Wow, what a story.

All right, to sports now.

For the second time in less than three months, the Memphis Grizzlies have suspended their star Ja Morant after he appeared to flash a gun on social media. He was already suspended for this once.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy. What's happening?


Yes, you remember this story. It was in March that Morant was suspended eight games for violating the league's rule prohibiting players from carrying guns when traveling with the team. He flashed a gun on an Instagram Live at a Denver area nightclub.

Well, on Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies suspending their 23-year-old superstar from all team activities pending an NBA investigation after a video on social media began circulating in which Morant appeared to flash a gun on a friend's Instagram Live while sitting behind the wheel of a car. It isn't clear when or where the livestream happened.

Following the March incident, Christine, Morant met with the commissioner, Adam Silver, and checked himself into a counseling program. The NBA tells us they are still gathering details on this situation. There is no word yet from Morant or his reps.

A huge game seven in Boston -- Celtics hosting 76ers. Winner go home -- and Philly should have just stayed home.

Jaylen Brown barreling through the defenders like a bowling ball through a wet paper bag for the bucket. Twenty-five points on the night for him.

Boston flexing all night but none more than Jayson Tatum, putting up the greatest game-seven performance in NBA history. He outscored the entire Philadelphia team in the third quarter all by himself. And in the fourth -- game already well in hand -- buckets. Tatum putting up 51 points in the end, breaking the game-seven record set by Steph Curry.

Tatum giving a hug to a very special fan this Mother's Day, Christine -- his mom, Brandy, there, to see her son make history, leading his team to a 112-88 win and a trip to the Eastern Conference finals.


JAYSON TATUM, BOSTON CELTICS GUARD: I love being here. I love getting to put on this uniform. I love getting to play big games and put on big performances in front of them. And they feed off emotion and energy, right, and it's reciprocated. And I can't express enough that I just love being here and love playing in front of this crowd. (END VIDEO CLIP)


WIRE: So the conference finals are set, Christine. Lakers-Nuggets in the west, tipping off tomorrow. And Heat-Celtics in the east will be tipping off Wednesday on TNT.

Finally, the Golden Knights continuing maybe the greatest opening stretch for any expansion team ever. Vegas in Edmonton last night for game six facing that awesome crowd cheering on a team desperate for a win. They have Leon Draisaitl. They have stars, but the Knights absolutely drilled the Oilers.

Jonathan Marchessault scoring three-straight goals all in the second period -- his second career playoff hat trick.

Vegas wins 5-2. Canada's Stanley Cup drought is now at 31 years. Vegas is back in the final, Christine -- in the final four for the fourth time in their first six seasons. They'll face either Seattle or Dallas who play game seven tonight.

I want to say a happy Mother's Day to you, Christine.

ROMANS: Thank you.

WIRE: I hope that you received all the love and hugs that you deserve, like all the other hardworking mommas out there.

ROMANS: Yes, I sure did -- I sure did. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

WIRE: You got it.

ROMANS: Thanks, Coy.

Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" what's behind the unexpected drop in migrant border encounters. And next, right here, a $500 sheep handbag and what it says about America's economy today.



ROMANS: All right, your Romans' Numeral this morning, $500. If you have that in your pocket right now this Kate Spade handbag could be yours. There it is. The Wall Street Journal says this sheepdog bag is an example of how companies keep hiking prices and consumers keep paying them. Some of the price hikes that companies are actually bragging about to their investors -- those price hikes are even bigger than the higher cost of raw materials and labor due to inflation.

In 2020, Kate Spade's popular pineapple bag cost about $100 less than that.

All right, looking at markets around the world right now, Asian markets finished higher this morning. The Hang Seng up nearly two percent ahead of China's industrial and retail data. European markets are also slightly higher this morning. And on Wall Street, stock index futures -- a check there -- leaning up, but not too much here.

The S&P 500 and the Dow fell for a second week in a row. Consumer sentiment hit six-month lows. We learned that Friday. And that debt ceiling drama is still unresolved. The Nasdaq finished higher though for the third consecutive week.

On inflation watch, gas prices rose a penny overnight to $3.54 a gallon.

A lot ahead this week. Retail sales, existing home sales, weekly jobless claims.

But really, the most important thing is getting this debt ceiling fixed. The end of the month -- that's when the U.S. could run out of money if an agreement isn't found to raise the debt limit. Talks are set to continue but no end in sight so far.

Joining me this morning, Gene Marks, a small business advocate, CPA, and president of The Marks Group. Gene, super great to have you on this Monday morning.

You know, I've been concerned about this for some time. We're running out of time to fix this. You advocate specifically for small business, so how concerned are you that Congress won't be able to do this -- to avoid a default -- at least in the very near term? And what would that do to small businesses?

GENE MARKS, SMALL BUSINESS ADVOCATE, CPA, PRESIDENT, THE MARKS GROUP (via Skype): Hey, Christine. Yes, thanks for having me on.

Yes, it is -- it's obviously a big concern for myself as an advocate but we have thousands of clients that we serve in our firm and they are -- many of them are very, very concerned about what impact this loan defaults could potentially have -- this debt default -- as well as any kind of shutdown of government services.

I have a lot of clients, Christine, that are in the contracting business, so they get money directly from the federal government or they're indirectly impacted because they get money from contractors. They get money from the federal government. And if the government shuts down and their prioritized payments -- and they're not making those payments, there are just countless small businesses around the country that are really going to be impacted by this.

ROMANS: Yes. Goldman Sachs, I think, estimated that about a tenth of American -- 10 percent of American economic activity would just stop for exactly the reason that you're talking about. The money just stops flowing from the federal government to contractors --


ROMANS: -- and contractors to the people that they're paying. Talk to me about advice for small business owners because I've heard

of some small business owners who are looking out there and making sure they've got maybe more money on hand for payroll. Maybe they're pulling in an investment someplace else so that they have cash on hand so that they can make their payroll and keep their workers if something terrible happens in the next --


ROMANS: -- couple of months.

MARKS: Really glad you're asking that. You know, listen, my best clients, Christine, are always, like, looking ahead. They're always thinking forward. So, like your reporting -- this could really happen, I mean. So there is a high chance that the government could shut down. We don't know for how long.

So my smartest clients right now are already thinking about that. They're putting cash away. They are making sure that they've got either credit lines or financing available. They're talking to their customers as well as their suppliers to make sure that they're aware there could be disruptions in service or payments as well.

You've got to be doing those actions like now. Hopefully, this doesn't happen but again, you've got to be planning ahead for this.

And by the way, long-term -- if you are running a small business and you're really relying on federal contracting dollars you might want to consider diversifying as much as you can because this kind of thing could happen before -- you've seen this happen before in the past. You have to make sure that you're diversified if you've got a bigger customer base.

ROMANS: Yes. You know, they raised the debt ceiling without really any drama for years and years and years. Seventy-eight times since 1960.


ROMANS: It's only been the last decade that it has become a political -- a political football.


ROMANS: So you're right. I mean, for small business owners, I cannot imagine how frustrating that is.

Thank you for coming by and walking us through it, Gene Marks, president of The Marks Group. Thanks.

MARKS: Thanks, Christine. Take care.

ROMANS: You, too.

All right. Florida's DeSantis not officially running for president but looking a lot like a candidate making the rounds in Iowa. And Taylor Swift being the anti-hero at her own concert defending a fan.



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


Clip from Marvel Entertainment's "The Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3."


ROMANS: "The Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3" is number one with the best second weekend of any Marvel movie.

Here is number two.


Clip from Illumination's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."



ROMANS: "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is now the fourth-biggest animated movie of all time.

And number three.


Clip from Focus Features "Book Club: The Next Chapter."


ROMANS: "Book Club: The Next Chapter" with Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen. I'd watch that.

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