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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ukraine's Handmade Bombs Having Devastating Impact; Dominant Brooks Koepka Wins Third PGA Championship; SpaceX Mission With Three Paying Customers Set To Dock At International Space Station. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 05:30   ET



PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Assassination attempt on him in November of last year -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Paula. Thank you so much for that.

ROMANS: All right. It seems increasingly likely that Ukraine will be getting F-16 fighter jets in the future. However, its military forces on the ground are also getting some upgrades.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports on the new tools being added to Ukraine's arsenal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These batteries -- the cold affects them. So after three or four days in the cold, if you're leaving it outside and there's no heating --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes -- these will last probably three weeks.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Ukrainian troops get a lesson on covert bomb making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that goes through your battery.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): British explosives and counterinsurgency specialists pass on decades of know-how to soldiers already well- versed in normal frontline combat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Killing someone and blowing up property, we are showing just how it's done.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But these are no ordinary bombs. They are secret weapons in Ukraine's clandestine arsenal to kill Russians on Ukrainian land.

SKIF, OFFICER, ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE (through translator): If we have a high target we, of course, use this equipment against it.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And it's not just individual targets. Similar technology already in very experienced Ukrainian hands was used to bring down a building on dozens of Russian troops recently in Bakhmut.

SKIF (through translator): This equipment is used to destroy the enemy. We use it to produce explosive devices we can use on the ground -- on the battlefield -- or in the air as munition for drones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This switch -- this switch can be really very little.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But it's not just the subversive skills and techniques the British experts bring that are needed in undercover operations, it's the bomb components, too -- sophisticated switches, specialized microchips, night vision goggles, covert monitoring devices, even 3D printers. Some, relatively easy to buy outside Ukraine, are in high demand because troops here are in a race against time against the Russians, and getting them through NATO partners simply takes too long.

SKIK (through translator): It's hard to measure this help with warts (PH) or numbers because it's a great moral support for us straight to our hearts, and we are very, very grateful for this help.

ROBERTSON (on camera): It's a measure, even on the eve of an expected big counteroffensive, of just how much help Ukraine's military still needs that more than a year into the war even the smallest of components -- the most modest of hands-on help is so gratefully received.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Eastern Ukraine.


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

Quick hits around the globe right now.

At least 12 people were killed and dozens injured in a crush at a soccer stadium in the capital of El Salvador. Officials say the crowd surge was caused by the overselling of tickets, including counterfeits.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni cut her G7 trip short to visit flood-hit areas of northern Italy. More than 36,000 people have been evacuated and at least 14 died in those floods.

Irish Nationalist Party Sinn Fein overtook its unionist rivals in Northern Ireland to become the biggest party at the local level for the first time. Sinn Fein leads opinion polls in the Republic of Ireland ahead of national elections due in 2025.

All right. Just hours from now, we'll see the accused Idaho college killer in court. And the magic hole-in-one moment at the PGA Championship. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ROMANS: Welcome back.

Here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meeting today to discuss the debt ceiling. Biden indicated over the weekend that the White House and House Republicans remain far apart.

The suspect in the murders of four University of Idaho students set to enter his plea in an arraignment hearing today. If found guilty, Brian Kohberger could face the death penalty.

Today, Sen. Tim Scott expected to formally announce he's running for president. He will be the second South Carolina Republican in the race, along with former governor Nikki Haley.

The prime minister of Greece claiming victory in Sunday's election. With 85 percent of the ballots counted his party had a 20-point lead but still fell short by a few seats of an outright majority. Now he says he wants a second election to win an absolute majority so his party can govern alone.

Elinda Labropoulou live in Athens with more. Elinda, is this -- the second round expected to happen?

ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: It absolutely is. Due to a change in electoral law it was always going to be very difficult for the winning party to win an outside -- an outright majority this first time around. So it's something that was largely factored in.

What we have seen is the prime minister and his party won pretty much a landslide majority -- much bigger than anything anticipated. And as he said himself yesterday, this gives him the strong message -- a strong signal that the people of Greece will want his party to govern alone. So he is willing to go to a second round.

There will be coalition talks but they are very like to fail. And soon enough we are going to be -- to have the next day -- the next election day announced in Greece.

What we have seen in this election is basically the people vote with the economy in mind more than anything else. Mitsotakis is very much seen as a safe pair of hands, both in Greece and abroad. He's someone who has led the country to growth. He has weathered the COVID-19 crisis, the energy crisis. So it seems that despite a number of scandals -- a wiretapping scandal and a terrible deadly train crash just months ago that led to 57 people dying -- all of this seems to have touched his party but still not enough to impact voters' intent in this election.


So we are just waiting for the next election to be announced soon enough, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Elinda Labropoulou. Thank you so much for that.

All right, to sports now.

Brooks Koepka is back, becoming the first LIV golfer to win a major after jumping to the controversial Saudi-backed tour.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. That was some good golf yesterday, man.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was, and it was a beautiful day for it up there in Rochester, New York. Hi, Christine.

Brooks Koepka said that one of the reasons he went to LIV was that he wasn't sure he'd ever get back to that dominant form he had when he won four majors from 2017 to 2019. Well, he's back after shooting a two-over par in the opening round of the PGA Championship on Thursday.

Koepka rallies like he usually does at majors and finishes nine under, winning his fifth major overall and raising that Wanamaker Trophy a third time. Only Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Walter Hagen have done it more times.

CNN's Patrick Snell caught up with the champ who says his perspective has changed during his long road back to the top.


BROOKS KOEPKA, 3-TIME PGA CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER: I've learned so much from '19 to now. I feel like a different person, right? I'm going to be a dad. I'm going to be -- going through all this stuff that I've been through I think it's changed me and humanized me a little bit more.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Many congrats. You're going to be a dad later on this year. I wonder what one day you'll say to your son about this stage in your career of what you've learned about yourself along the way.

KOEPKA: Well, honestly, don't ever quit. Don't ever give up on anything. You never know how close you are no matter far it may feel. And I think that's one thing I would tell my son -- that no matter what he's going through or what it is you just never know what's around the corner.


WIRE: That was a great win for Koepka, right, but the weekend belong to Michael Block, a 46-year-old club pro in Mission Viejo, California, Christine, giving lessons at a public course for a living. But he qualified to play and he made the most of it.

A hole-in-one on the 15th. He had to ask his playing partner, Rory McIlroy, what happened when the crowd roared because he didn't even know that it had gone in the hole. And check out the reaction from everyone watching back in his home course, erupting into cheers when he aced it.

The magic would keep going. On 18, he needed to sink a putt to finish in the top 15. Block drains it. He secures an automatic berth to next year's PGA Championship. He earns about $300,000.

And the crowd unleashed the biggest roar of the day. The emotions come pouring out. Total disbelief as he gets another hug from Rory McIlroy. And he knows just how special a moment this is in golf history.


MICHAEL BLOCK, ARROYO TRABUCO GOLF CLUB PRO: It's amazing. I'm living a dream. I'm making sure that I enjoy this moment. I've learned that after the -- my 46 years of life that it's not going to get better than this. There's no way. No chance in hell.

Everyone was awesome and I can't thank everybody enough for being so cool to me. And cheers to the 29,000 PGA Tour professionals in the world. I -- this is for you, guys.


WIRE: Oh. More tears would come from Michael and his wife Val when the PGA Tour surprised them with an invitation to play in the next event this weekend, Christine. It looks like he's not going to be going back to giving lessons just yet.

There is some magic happening in South Beach, too. The Heat shocking the sports world as an eight seed in the NBA playoffs. So in sync they're about to say bye, bye, bye to the Celtics -- humiliating them in Miami last night 128-102. The Heat are doing this without key players Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro, and with three undrafted players rising up, including Gabe Vincent -- game-high 29 points off the bench for him. Six for nine on three-pointers.

The Heat are now up 3-0 in their series --


WIRE: -- and no team has ever come back from that, Christine.

But how about Michael Block? I mean, he'll have any painter out there thinking they can make the next masterpiece, huh?

ROMANS: It's just -- it's amazing. And I wonder -- I mean, he can raise the prices of his lessons I think a little bit, right? But that's amazing. I just love that story. I love it. The hole-in-one was just the best.

All right, nice to see you. Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: You, too, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" Paul Whelan speaking to CNN over the phone from a Russian prison. Hear the exclusive interview. And next, right here, a new report ranks the hottest housing markets. Which cities made the list.



ROMANS: Your Romans' Numeral this Monday morning is 10. There are only 10 days left until June first. That's the day Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen says is the hard deadline for the U.S. to raise the debt ceiling or risk a catastrophic default.

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet again today after negotiations broke down over the weekend without a deal.

All right. Looking at markets around the world right now, Asian markets are up this morning. China has banned a U.S. chipmaker, Micron, from selling to Chinese companies citing serious security risks. The move fueled a rally among Asian chip companies. European markets are mixed right now.

And this just in. Meta is expected to be hit with a record EU privacy violation fine of $1.3 billion over data transfers to the U.S.

On Wall Street, stock index futures leaning slightly lower here this morning. Stocks rose last week as debt ceiling talks ramped up in Washington. The Nasdaq climbed more than three percent on the week. The S&P gaining more than one percent. Both recorded the best weekly performance since March.

In inflation watch, gas prices held steady overnight at $3.54 a gallon.

A big week is in store on the economic calendar. We get housing data, the minutes from the Fed meeting, a first revision to GDP, and a look at the Fed's preferred inflation gauge, the PCE.

All right. A new report is out ranking the hottest housing markets in the country with Gainesville, Georgia first on the list. Charlotte, North Carolina ranks as the hottest housing market among the 50 largest metro areas in the United States.


Let's bring in Jeff Ostrowski, senior mortgage reporter for Bankrate. Good morning. Nice to see you.

What kind of things do you look at in determining these ratings?


So, yes, we looked at the 212 largest metro areas in the U.S. -- so metro areas with populations of about 200,000 and above. And so we looked at a variety of metrics, the most important one being home price appreciation. But then we also looked at things like unemployment rate, job growth, population growth. And then some things about the housing market, like the average days on the market for homes and the number of homes for sale.

ROMANS: I see Charlotte on the list. What's drawing people to Charlotte?

OSTROWSKI: Well, Charlotte is comparatively affordable and it's got a strong job market. And so that seems to be the theme. The southeast is doing really well right now and it's -- it seems like it's those factors that are really driving the markets there. A lot of these southeastern markets had been affordable for a long time and their home prices have been appreciating really quickly.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, that's really interesting when you look at that list how the southeastern U.S. is really dominating the list. The 10 coldest markets are in -- are in different parts of the country.

So what is the mix that's happening in the southeast right now?

OSTROWSKI: I -- well, I think it's just sort of the southeast's turn. I was crunching these numbers during the pandemic and the mountain west was really way out in front. So, Utah and Idaho, and Arizona were really hot. And at that time there were a lot of Californians moving out of California and people moving from Seattle into those regions and driving up prices. And I think the mountain west sort of hit the -- its limits of affordability and the southwest, right now, is just an attractive area for a lot of -- a lot of homebuyers.

ROMANS: You know, a year ago -- a little more than a year ago you had mortgage rates that were mostly in the three percent range. Now they're in the six percent range. How are mortgage rates maybe shaking up -- shaking up these different regions?

OSTROWSKI: Yes. It seems like only a year ago but actually it's more like a year and a half to two years ago that mortgage rates were down in that three percent range, and even under three percent. And so that really helped fuel a housing boom. It's -- mortgage rates are never the only factor --


OSTROWSKI: -- but they were a big factor driving home prices to record levels.

So, intriguingly, as you mentioned, mortgage rates have doubled in the last year and a half or so, but home prices have still held pretty steady. I mean, they've fallen a little bit, according to the National Association of Realtors. Last week, home prices nationally were down 1.7 percent.


OSTROWSKI: But certainly, not a crash. A pullback but not a crash.

So it -- but the real challenge now is affordability because mortgage rates are so much higher and affordability is a much higher hurdle for a lot of homebuyers.

ROMANS: Jeff, I think you're right. And there's also an availability problem for a lot of homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers. They say they just can't -- there's just not enough inventory, you know? They'd like to buy a home maybe in one of these southeastern cities but there's not a lot of inventory because people who have a 3 1/2 percent mortgage are not really in the market to move.

OSTROWSKI: Yes, exactly. It's just -- it's a weird housing market right now. So home sales have really plunged from where they were a year ago and two years ago. But at the same time, as you just mentioned, all those homeowners with three percent mortgages don't want to give up their three percent mortgages, so they're just staying put and maybe renovating.

So there just aren't a whole lot of houses on the market. New home building just has never really recovered since the Great Recession.

ROMANS: That's right.

OSTROWSKI: So it's very difficult now, especially for first-time buyers.

ROMANS: Yes, it is, really. It's a weird place in the housing market but some fascinating trends there.

Jeff Ostrowski of, thank you so much. Have a great morning.

OSTROWSKI: All right, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy denying claims that a key city has fallen to Russian forces. Details on the battle for Bakhmut coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."



ROMANS: SpaceX launching an all-private mission that's set to dock at the International Space Station this morning.


NASA EMPLOYEE: Four, three, two, one, engines full power, and liftoff Falcon 9. Go, Axiom.


ROMANS: It's the second-ever all-private mission to the ISS. The historic crew is made up of one astronaut and four paying customers, including the first woman to command a private space flight and the first woman from Saudi Arabia to travel to space. They are joining seven astronauts already aboard the Space Station and will spend about eight days there working on more than 20 investigations and science projects. All right, our top of the morning this Monday morning, the top movies at the box office.


Clip from Universal Pictures' "Fast X."


ROMANS: "Fast X" or "Fast 10" speeds to the top. This is supposed to be the 10th and final chapter of the franchise that began back in 2001.

Here's number two.


Clip from Marvel Entertainment's "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3."


ROMANS: All right. "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3" with Chris Pratt, who is also in this week's third-biggest flick.


Clip from Universal Pictures' "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."



ROMANS: Yes, this one has been on top of his list for quite some time, hasn't it? That's the "Super Mario Bros. Movie."

All right, thanks for joining me this Monday morning, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. Have a great day. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.