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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

North Korea To Commemorate 70 Years Since Korean War; Lawmakers, Officials Push For Government Transparency On UFOs; Thousands Of American Workers On Strike This Summer. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 27, 2023 - 05:30   ET



CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much of the food did not go to developing countries. He said that none of the sort of sanctions relief that was promised to Russia has materialized as part of that deal. So essentially saying that the grain deal was not what it promised to be.

And he has also tried, as I said, to reassure these countries that Russia, as he says, is a much bigger part of the global grain and wheat exports than Ukraine, and will be able to step into that breach and provide them with what they need, both on a commercial and on a humanitarian -- in a humanitarian way. So essentially, for free, which he's trying to make the point that the Western efforts to sort of disrupt this for Russia is an earning (PH) method are futile because Russia is going to do some of it for free.

So look, the point of this is this summit which is obviously not perfectly timed given it comes just a week after Russia pulled out of that deal, but it is very important to Russia.

They have been cultivating these alliances with Africa trying not only to look for commercial opportunities as a bulwark against Western sanctions but also to expand their sphere of influence to foster this anti-Western sentiment that they're trying to sort of spread. And also, to project themselves as a major power which is, of course, part of the reason why they invaded Ukraine in the first place, Christine. So, very interesting optics here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we'll let you get back to monitoring those comments from Vladimir Putin. Thank you so much, Clare.

North Korea preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War today. It ended in July 1953 with the signing of an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty. The celebration comes during rising tensions around the peninsula over the North's increasing missile tests.

CNN's Marc Stewart live in Tokyo with more. Marc, my friend, what can we expect from North Korea's celebrations?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Good morning. Already, we have seen a lot of pageantry coming from North Korea. That is not a surprise. It's often one of its tools of choice as it really tries to assert itself on the global stage.

Among the agenda items today we saw a tour of a military facility. North Korean leader Kim Jung Un taking Russia's defense minister on a walk-through of sorts, looking at what have been described as new-type weapons and other military hardware.

North Korea and Russia have really enjoyed a cozy relationship with each other. In fact, the Russian defense minister, at one point today, pointed out that in his view the Korean People's Army -- the KPA -- the North Korean military force -- has become the strongest military in the world.

And these nations are not alone. There's also a delegation from China also in North Korea. These three nations have really built an alliance among themselves as the war in Ukraine takes place.

This is a big ceremonial event, of course -- the 70th anniversary marking the end of the war. There is always a possibility that we may see a much larger military parade, which is often a trademark -- a hallmark of North Korean celebrations. Christine, we're keeping a watch on that and to see if perhaps that does happen in the hours ahead. It's already evening in Pyongyang.

ROMANS: All right, Marc Stewart. Nice to see you, Marc. Thank you.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

A London jury has cleared actor Kevin Spacey of all sexual assault charges. The 64-year-old had tears in his eyes as he heard the decision.


KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: I would like to say that I'm enormously grateful to the jury for having taken the time to examine all of the evidence and all of the facts.


ROMANS: A fire on a cargo ship near the Dutch coast has killed at least one crew member and injured several others. The Coast Guard says it was carrying nearly 3,000 vehicles and an electric vehicle could have sparked the blaze.


SINEAD O'CONNOR, IRISH SINGER: Singing "Nothing Compares 2 U."


ROMANS: Irish singer Sinead O'Connor, whose rendition of "Nothing Compares 2 U" shot to number one in 1990, has died at the age of 56. She was known for her music as much as her struggles -- one of the most famous launched on "SNL" when she ripped a photo of the Pope.

All right. Just ahead, Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat today on Capitol Hill. And a draw for the U.S. women in the World Cup.



ROMANS: Here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley set to appear in court today. A judge will decide if he can be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was 15 when he fatally shot four teens at Oxford High School almost two years ago.

President Biden hosts Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White House today. He'll thank the far-right leader for her support for Ukraine's fight against Russian forces.

House Republicans will vote today on a report alleging Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to comply with a series of subpoenas. They say he failed to turn over documents for their probe into whether Meta censored conservative speech on its platforms.

Three retired military veterans claim the U.S. government is in possession of non-human biological matter -- alien bodies from UFOs. They believe the government knows much more than it's telling the public.

CNN's Oren Liebermann has more.


NAVY FIGHTER PILOT 1: This is a f*****g drone, bro.

NAVY FIGHTER PILOT 2: There's a whole fleet of them. Look on the S.A.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The videos of mysterious airborne objects have captured the public's attention --

NAVY FIGHTER PILOT 2: They're all going against the wind. The wind's 120 knots to the west.

NAVY FIGHTER PILOT 1: Look at that thing, dude.

LIEBERMANN: -- and perhaps its imagination --

REP. GLENN GROTHMAN (R-WI): There lies a pressing demand for government transparency and accountability that cannot be overlooked.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): -- as Wednesday's hearing focused on the threat they may pose and whether the government has been too secretive about what it knows.

RYAN GRAVES, FORMER F/A-18 SUPER HORNET PILOT, FOUNDER, AMERICANS FOR SAFE AEROSPACE: If UAP are foreign drones, it is an urgent national security problem. If it is something else, it is an issue for science. In either case, unidentified objects are a concern for flight safety.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): David Grusch, a former military intel officer, claimed the U.S. had alien bodies and spacecraft -- a statement for which he admitted he has secondhand info and no proof.

REP. ERIC BURLISON (R-MO): You've said that the U.S. has intact spacecraft. You've said that the government has alien bodies.

DAVID GRUSCH, FORMER AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I have to be careful to describe what I've seen firsthand and not in this environment.

BURLISON: Have you seen any of the bodies?

GRUSCH: That's something I've not witnessed myself.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The House Oversight hearing was a rare moment of bipartisanship in a sharply divided Congress.

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): We're not bringing little green men or flying saucers into the hearing. We're just going to get to the facts.

REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): We should encourage more reporting, not less, on UAPs. The more we understand the safer we will be.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): One of the witnesses was former Navy pilot Ryan Graves who now runs Americans for Safe Aerospace, a group that encourages pilots to report incidents of UFOs, officially known as UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). A vast majority of sightings, he says, are never reported.

GRAVES: This is an approximation based off of my personal experience and speaking with a number of pilots, but I would estimate we're somewhere near five percent reporting perhaps.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The three witnesses, all retired military veterans, warn the threat these objects pose is real.

REP. ANDY OGLES (R-TN): Based off of your own experience or the data that you've been privy to, is there any indication that these UAPs could be essentially collecting reconnaissance information, Mr. Graves?


OGLES: Mr. Grusch?

GRUSCH: A fair assessment, yes.

OGLES: Mr. Fravor?


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): David Fravor, a retired U.S. Navy commander, picked up this on this aircraft sensors in 2004 -- a reading he claimed was something far superior to anything the U.S. had.

FRAVOR: You're talking something that can go into space, go someplace, drop down in a matter of seconds, do whatever it wants, and leave, and there's nothing we can do about it.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In April, the head of the Pentagon's office looking into these incidents told lawmakers there were about 650 potential case of UAPs, about half of which he said may be of interesting value.

The White House said Wednesday it's still working on figuring out those answers.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: If you're question is do we think we need to be transparent with the American people, of course, we need to be as transparent as we can be. But the truth is, Jeremy, we don't have hard and fast answers on these things. We are trying to get smarter on it.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.


ROMANS: All right, the mystery remains.

To sports now. The U.S. Women's National Team rallies in the second half to end up tying the Netherlands in the World Cup.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Good morning, Andy.


So it was not the best result but it was also not the worst. The tie with the Netherlands last night keeps the U.S. Women on top of their group based on goals.

And this game was really similar to the one against Vietnam in the sense that the U.S. just couldn't find the back of the net. They were held scoreless in the first half and went down a goal when the Netherlands scored here in the 17th minute. This was the first time since 2011 that the U.S. Women trailed at a World Cup match. They had gone 17 straight without trailing, which is a World Cup record.

Now, in the second half, captain Lindsey Horan gets taken down by Danielle Van De Donk and she was not happy about that, but she would end up getting her revenge. In the 62nd minute, Rose Lavelle, who came on as a sub, a perfect corner here, and Horan with a great header to get the U.S. on the board. But that would be it. Despite outshooting the Netherlands 18-4, this one would end in a 1-1 tie.


LINDSEY HORAN, SCORED GAME-TYING GOAL FOR U.S.: I felt the momentum the whole time. I think the first half we can be a little disappointed in how we played, but I think we fixed things right away -- the pressure that we got on and the amount of chances and opportunities that came from. So I'm proud of the team and their response. It's against a really good opponent and a very competitive team -- one that we saw last World Cup do such good things.

So I think for us it's going down a goal and coming up and getting able to tie -- and again, the chances we got on goal. We got to finish a few of those but we keep moving forward.


SCHOLES: All right. So the U.S. is not guaranteed advancing out of the group yet but they're heavy favorites against Portugal on Tuesday in their final group stage match. You're going to need to set your alarm early for that one. Kickoff scheduled for 3:00 a.m. Eastern.

All right, Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, looks like he is turning down the richest offer in sports history. According to multiple reports, the French star is refusing to even meet with the Saudi club Al Hilal. They had reportedly offered Mbappe a mouthwatering sum of $776 million to come play with them for just one season. And since Mbappe won't be going that means his current club, PSG, won't be getting that record transfer fee of $332 million either.

All right. And finally, in baseball last night, the Guardians' Gabriel Arias with one of the greatest slides of all time. The ball was hit to shallow center. He's trying to score from second and look what he does. Arias slides between catcher Freddy Fermin's legs. Just incredible.


So he was originally called out but they would go to a review. And, as you can see, Christine, his foot got in there and he was called safe. And this was just genius. The fact that he thought to do this was pretty awesome. I mean, it helped that Fermin's legs were wide open -- but, man.


SCHOLES: Like I said, one of the greatest slides of all time.

ROMANS: Amazing.

All right, Andy, thank you so much. Nice to see you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING" what happened to Hunter Biden's plea deal. How it all went sideways in court.

And next, right here, call it the summer of strikes. Workers emboldened against bosses. What's driving this labor tension.


ROMANS: Your Romans' Numeral this morning is 22. The Federal Reserve lifting interest rates to the highest level in 22 years. The central bank raising the lending rate by a quarter point just a month after pausing to assess the state of the economy.


Fed chairman Jerome Powell says another increase remains an option.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I would say it is certainly possible that we would raise funds again at the September meeting if the data warranted. And I would also say it's possible that we would choose to hold steady at that meeting. We're going to be making careful assessments, as I said, meeting by meeting.


ROMANS: This marks the 11th rate hike since March 2022.

Looking at markets around the world this Thursday morning, Asian markets closed mixed. The Hang Seng, though, surged after Volkswagen agreed to invest $700 million in a major Chinese EV maker. European markets are higher ahead of the European central bank's rate hike decision.

On Wall Street, stock index futures leaning higher this morning here after yesterday -- what was a remarkable day for the Dow. The 13th straight day higher. That hasn't happened since 1987. The Nasdaq and the S&P down just a tiny bit, though.

Gas prices rose two cents overnight to $3.71 a gallon. Tech giant Amazon will report earnings later today. On the economic calendar, the first reading for second-quarter GDP. Mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims are due out later this morning.

All right, this summer, labor strikes and threatened strikes are front and center posing the possibility of huge disruptions in the economy.

Let's bring in Sharon Block. She's a professor at Harvard Law School and served on the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama. Good morning.


ROMANS: So, UPS workers have reached a tentative deal, so that dodges a -- you know, a bullet for the U.S. economy. There are negotiations going on with the United Auto Workers to reach a deal by September. The actors and writers guilds are on strike.

What has caused all of this to happen now, Sharon?

BLOCK: So, I think workers are considering, sort of, three main factors.

One, they're looking at companies that made -- in some cases, like UPS -- record profits during the pandemic and they're asking themselves did we get a fair share of those profits? And if not -- if they don't feel that they did, can we, in new negotiations, get what they believe is fair? I mean, that's really what being in a union is about is having a voice in what you think is fair in your workplace.

Second, I think many of these unions have contracts that were negotiated in a different context. Again, UPS is emblematic of this. And so workers are saying do we have an opportunity now to make better maybe provisions and contracts that they agreed to when they didn't feel quite as empowered.

And then third, there's clearly something going on across the economy where workers, especially those in unions, are feeling stronger, more united, more empowered than they have before, and they are looking to ensure that they get contracts that really meet this unusual moment.


BLOCK: For some --

ROMANS: Go ahead.

BLOCK: I was just going to say for some of these unions, too, they are in sectors of the economy where we're expecting big changes, right? That's what you see I think in the Hollywood strikes where this move to streaming, the possibility of AI coming into their -- into their workplaces. The UAW looking at big changes in how what kinds of automobiles are made.

So I think the workers also see this moment as their opportunity to get ahead of big changes in their -- in their work, in their sectors. And so they want to have a seat at the table --


BLOCK: -- to discuss what those changes look like.

ROMANS: How much does the coronavirus pandemic play into this? Because in many cases, these are frontline workers demanding better compensation and working conditions.

BLOCK: I think it has a big impact. Again, looking at UPS, which is very much on people's minds this week, you had UPS drivers who put -- really put their lives on the line to deliver packages to all of us when we were afraid to leave our houses.

People know their UPS drivers. And the teamsters were looking then at sitting down at the bargaining table with a company that made record profits during the pandemic, yet their drivers were operating under a contract at that time that they felt didn't give them a fair share of those record profits.

So I think the teamsters came out of the pandemic really feeling like they had a right to demand their fair share of those pandemic profits. And we'll see what -- we have to remember unions are democratic organizations so the teamsters members have the last work on whether this contract is ratified or not, but it certainly seems encouraging when you see the improvements in this contract over the contract that the teamsters were working under --


BLOCK: -- during the pandemic.

ROMANS: All right, Professor Sharon Block. So nice to see you this morning. Thank you.

BLOCK: Thank you.


ROMANS: All right, Hunter Biden in legal limbo after his plea agreement all but fell apart in court. And the moment Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell froze mid-sentence during a news conference coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."


ROMANS: Our top of the morning, the top songs in America.


JASON ALDEAN, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Singing "Try That In A Small Town."


ROMANS: Jason Aldean's "Try That In A Small Town" is number one on YouTube's charts.

Here's number two.




ROMANS: "Seven" by Jeon Jung-kook with some help from Latto.

And number three.


TOOSII, RAPPER: Singing "Favorite Song."


ROMANS: Toosii's "Favorite Song" remix featuring Khalid.

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