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Shortage and Higher Diesel Prices; Developments Around the World; Momentum Shifting to Ukraine; Mayor Eric Adams is Interviewed about Covid. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 08:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing I can do about it.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): She's a small business owner who services other small businesses and says the record prices have lost her customers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When prices are high, people shop around more. Well if you know you'll save, you know, 10 cents down the road, you're going to go there.

YURKEVICH: Hudson Square Pharmacy, back in New York, is also facing the same problem. Everything from cereal to toilet paper is more expensive.

AL SOLMAN, OWNER, HUDSON SQUARE PHARMACY: We do pay a gas surcharge too. Now that gas has gone up a lot, we notice on our bills $2, $3, $5 surcharge for gasoline.

YURKEVICH: That extra charge has to be recouped from somewhere.

SOLMAN: Once the prices become a little too much, then we just have to pass it on to the consumer.

YURKEVICH: But the consumer holds some power to turn the tide of high prices. A relentless buying and spending inflicted on a brittle supply chain are contributing to the high price of diesel.

DENTON CINQUEGRANA, CHIEF OIL ANALYST, OPIS: And at some point the consumer's going to say, all right, enough's enough. I got to -- I got to slow down because this is taking too much of a disposable income. If we do have a pullback in economic activity, that might help, but kind of level off supplies, but for the time being, things are really tightening.


YURKEVICH: And now compounding that tight issue is the fact that we used to import Russian diesel right here into New York Harbor. We're not doing that anymore after President Biden announced that we would no longer be importing Russian energy into the United States. But this oil tanker right behind me here, this came in from Rotterdam. You can see that the water level is actually lower on the ship. That means they presumably already offloaded all the fuel that they needed to get into those oil tanks.

But, Erica, really important to just mention one more time that the consumer, you and I and people at home do hold a lot of power to potentially lowering prices. If we decide to stop spending more on goods and services, that will bring down presumably the price of diesel because we won't need as many ships, as many trains, and planes to get goods to our front door. Obviously not something that can happen overnight. Probably won't change things immediately, but could have some impact, Erica, down the line.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, something important to think about.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thanks for braving the elements for us out there on that boat in New York Harbor this morning. Great story. Thanks.

Well, speaking of an economy on edge, let's take a look at Dow futures, down again. This, of course, following Wednesday's dive. Gas prices also hitting yet another new record.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a NATO official tells CNN that the war momentum has shifted slightly in favor of Ukraine. We're going to get the latest from the battlefront ahead.



BERMAN: Taliban forces have been blocking female college students from attending classes in Kabul because their head scarves have been deemed too colorful. This is the latest evidence of eroding human rights since the Taliban seized power almost a year ago. CNN has reporters covering all the latest developments from around the world.



President Biden arrives here tomorrow, but no plans to visit the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, according to the White House, breaking with tradition. Former Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump all visited while here in South Korea. In fact, Mr. Trump went one step further, meeting the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un there, and crossing over the demarcation line into North Korea.

But the White House says that President Biden already visited whilst he was vice president and clearly North Korea will be high up on the agenda.


A retired Russian colonel who openly criticized Russia's war in Ukraine on state TV this week now appears to be contradicting his own message. On Monday, Mikhail Khodarenok said that he believed Ukraine could mobilize a million fighters. He said things will get worse for Russia on the ground, and that the whole world is against Russia in this fight. Then, on Wednesday, Khodarenok went on TV again, this time saying that talk of Ukraine's ability to mount a counterattack was exaggerated and that Russia's army had plans that would give Ukraine a, quote, unpleasant surprise in the very near future.


HILL: A NATO military official tells CNN the momentum in the war has shifted slightly in favor of Ukraine, but that no major battlefield gains are expected for either side in the coming weeks.

Joining me now to discuss, retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons.

So, a little bit of hope, I guess, or somewhat positive thinking in terms of that assessment from that NATO official for Ukraine. But the fact that we're stuck in this sort of back and forth for the next several weeks, that's not great news, especially when we look at this map.

You know, we also heard there's been some discussion at NATO about whether Ukraine could actually retake the Donbas, retake Crimea. What are the chances of that?

MAJOR MIKE LYONS, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): I think they're low right now. The fact of the matter is, the equipment is pouring in from the west and helping the Ukraine on the defense. And we've seen, for example, Dnipro, with -- this city here, we've seen artillery battles come here. We're think that artillery -- that equipment's coming on the river. So we're using land, we're using the river, we're using rail in order to get that equipment there. So they're doing a lot of smart things.

But what the Ukraine military doesn't have is men. Doesn't have soldiers. It would need 50,000 to 100,000 soldiers to go back on the offense given the amount of equipment that Russia has, given the amount of men, battalion tactical groups they still have in the region.

HILL: So, what is your sense of how they're managing that, right, and how they're managing the force that they do have knowing that this could continue for some time?

LYONS: Well, I think they are doing what's called the act of defense and they're trying to put in certain places, they know they're fighting smaller Russian formations in certain areas and they pick and choose those areas where they can -- they can really hammer, so to speak. The formation is called hammer and anvil. What they'll do is they'll set up, you know, kind of a blocking formation here and then try to bring troops in from the other side and try to, you know, reflank their -- those units there.

They've been very successful at it.

[08:40:01] And that's because the Russian military is not maneuvering. They're not -- they're not fighting the way that we expect them to fight. They're not synchronizing air forces. And so because of all of that, they've not been successful.

HILL: So, when we talk about the Russian military, Russian ministry of defense has put out this new video -- I'm new at this. You're better at the board. I'm going to have you call up the video. There we go.

So, they put out -- again, this is from the Russian ministry of defense.


HILL: But what they say are Russian troops attacking these howitzers. Tell me what you see in this video.

LYONS: So, you look at this video. It's supposed to show Russian competence at this. And actually it kind of -- I think it just shows the absolute opposite. If you -- if you kind of started from the beginning here, this is a drone attacking an M-77 howitzer here. This is coming in from the U.S. -- coming in from the west here.

That is not the right way to attack that. They could have attacked that -- those trucks on the other side. This -- now, the howitzers are retreating into a troop line here where, again, according to the Russian propaganda film, that they were attacked in there. This just wasn't the case. This is not the same -- this is a video that's been stitched on something else to that other video.

So, they're trying to project to their audience that they're doing well. And it's all about finding this nonorganic equipment here.

Here's another howitzer over here that has been used for firing as well. I'm surprised it's even there. A little bit kind of close together.

Again, the bottom line is, in what they're showing, competence, and trying to show that they're attacking these systems. They really aren't.

HILL: They're doing it all wrong is what I'm hearing from you.


HILL: Major Mike Lyons, good to see you, as always. Thank you.

Well, new U.S. Covid cases tripling in just a month. New York City's mayor says he still, though, has no plans to reinstate an indoor mask mandate. Mayor Eric Adams will join us.

BERMAN: Plus, crazy pictures this morning out of Florida. An 11-foot alligator shows up in someone's backyard.



BERMAN: New York City is now at a high Covid-19 alert level, that's according to health officials. Both infections and hospitalizations are rising in the city, yet the mayor of New York says he will not reinstate mask mandates at this time.

And joining us now is the mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.


BERMAN: You are -- it is being recommended by health officials that people wear masks indoors yet you are not mandating it. Let me put the question to you this way, do you want people to wear masks indoors?

ADAMS: Yes, I do. I wear a mask indoors and I'm encouraging others. And I'm also encouraging us all to use the tools that are available for this new layer of the war. We're not using old methods in an old war. Masks, antivirals that are readily available in New York, tests, we're going to distribute 16 million tests so people who are diagnosed with Covid can stay home. These are all the new tools we have. We're going to put a million masks into our community so that they will wear them. We're going to use all the tools so we can keep this city up and operating but, most importantly, safe.

BERMAN: Well, you're not really using all the tools, are you, because you say you want people to wear masks indoors, but you're not going to require it.

ADAMS: Yes, mandate, mandate. New Yorkers have responded. And I'm really proud of this city. We have been responding with taking our vaccines, taking our booster shots, wearing a mask in our subway systems, calling the antivirals. We're doing the right things to keep deaths and hospitalizations at a management level. That's what my health and hospital corporation is telling me. And that's what my medical team is telling me. We're doing the right things, let's be prepared, not panic. Let's get this city up and operating.

Another variant is maybe days away. We cannot allow Covid to control our lives. We need to be smart and responsible and that's what we're doing.

BERMAN: I get it. And, you know, look, I'm not saying you should or shouldn't have a mandate, I'm just curious about why not. If you think people should be wearing masks indoors, why you are not mandating it or requiring it?

ADAMS: Because I don't think we need to do that at this time based on the information from my medical teams. As these new variants come, we also have to build consumer confidence, I like to say, and we also need to know that we are using the tools that we have available, that we did not have before.

I remember at the beginning of Covid watching the level of ventilators and hospitalizations and deaths. Because of the great discoveries and collaboration globally, we now have new tools. Let's use them and let's get our cities back up and operating.

BERMAN: It's a different time. There's no question it's a different time than it was two years ago or even one year ago in New York City.

Mayor, I want to ask you about the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. John Fetterman has won the nomination for U.S. Senate there. And it's interesting, in "The New York Times," one of your hometown papers, it commented, there was a quote comparing you to John Fetterman as a new type of Democrat, that's progressive on some things, conservative on other things.

What do you make of that comparison, and why do you think it's being made?

ADAMS: Well, I believe that we're finding that the overwhelming of New Yorkers just want the basic things that they deserve, safe streets, gainfully employment, educate the children, agencies in cities providing the services that taxpayers are paying for. And, you know, people want to classify me as a conservative, or libera. I just don't fall in those lines. I'm a New Yorker and American and I want the best for the residents of this city, and for this country to be honest with you, because we're all in this together. And so people are going to try to classify me and that's just not who I am. I'm a blue collar, ex-law enforcement officer that struggled with dyslexia, had my encounters with law enforcement, and I know that what I went through in my life, New Yorkers and Americans are going through right now and we need answers and solutions.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you about one issue that is very important to Democratic voters, it's important to all voters, in fact, and that is abortion. And the Supreme Court could very soon overturn Roe v. Wade in this country. You've been an ardent supporter of abortion rights.

And I want to play an exchange where you talked about this. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Adams, do you think there should be any limitation on abortion?


ADAMS: No, I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: None? Day of birth, totally fine?

ADAMS: No, I do not think -- I think women should have a right to choose their bodies. Men should not have that right to choose how a woman should treat their bodies.


BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) -- a poll that just came out this morning, NPR/Marist, says the vast majority of Americans do not support overturning Roe v. Wade. But a majority, including a majority of Democrats, does believe that there could or should be some restrictions in when during a pregnancy that could be. You say no restrictions at all?

ADAMS: No, I say, and I continue to say, and I stand by this, woman should determine what they're going to do with their bodies. I just believe it's unbelievable that men are making these determinations. Women should determine -- the overwhelming number of people on the Supreme Court, I don't believe they can deliver a baby. So, women should determine what they're going to do with their bodies. I strongly believe that. And I'm not taking a Gallup poll to make that determination. And it's something I believe from seeing the women who are in my life, my mother that passed away, my two sisters and others, they should make the determination on what they're going to do with their bodies.

BERMAN: Mayor Eric Adams, I do appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much for being with us.

ADAMS: Thank you.

HILL: Time now for "The Good Suff." This morning it's curtsy of nine- year-old Rhae Parks honored by her local fire department in Arizona for saving her family from a house fire. It broke out in the middle of the night. Firefighters credited Rhae with reacting quickly to get her three-year-old brother out of bed and safely to her parents who were downstairs at the time.


RHAE PARKS, ALERTED FAMILY TO HOUSE FIRE: I screamed "fire," and then I ran out of my room. And I was going to go down the stairs when Nora (ph), she started screaming, Lenny's (ph) still in his crib. So I ran to my little brother's room and got my little brother out of his crib.

PHILIP PARKS, RHAE'S DAD: Obviously there was a lot going on, but just seeing her with her brother at the top of the stairs when we were all trying to get out, it was fantastic.


HILL: Yes, talk about being at a loss for words as a dad. My goodness.

BERMAN: I hope she holds it over her brother for the rest of their lives.

HILL: If she is a kid with her salt, she will, right?

BERMAN: I know.

HILL: We know what John Berman would have done, yes.

BERMAN: Absolutely. No question.

All right, just in, a very significant development involving the potential expansion of NATO. Turkish President Erdogan saying moments ago that he rejects the alliance adding Finland and Sweden. This is a big deal. There would need to be a unanimous NATO consent to add a nation. And this comes as President Biden is set to host the leaders of Finland and Sweden very shortly at the White House. So, stand by.



HILL: Author and journalist Sebastian Junger is used to dodging bullets in war zones, so you can imagine he didn't expect to almost die in his own driveway. His remarkable survival story and why he now thinks it's so important to donate blood in today's "The Human Factor."


SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: I've been a war reporter for a very long time. The most danger I've ever been in by far was in my own driveway. I had an undiagnosed aneurysm, a ballooning of the artery, my pancreatic artery in my abdomen. It was asymptomatic. And one fine day, it ruptured. Pain shot through my abdomen. Right when we pulled into the ER, my body let go. Came within minutes of dying and they pulled me back. One doctor guessed I lost two-thirds of my blood, something like that. I needed so much blood, so quickly, that they asked permission to cut my neck and put a line into my jugular. And I said, you mean in case there's an emergency? He said, this is the emergency.

And I just kept thinking about my little girls. If something happens to me, I'm OK. I've had a good life. My girls growing up without a daddy just crushed me.

So, I never really thought about blood donation before. Then one of my closest friends died of blood loss and then I almost died, but I survived because ten people donated blood. Ten anonymous people that I'll never know saved my life. It allowed my little girls to have a father.

So, I suddenly started thinking about blood donation. And blood is this sort of miraculous thing where your body creates it for free. So, give blood. Vote. Serve jury duty. And you will feel like you are part of something greater than yourself, which is one of the best feelings a person can have.


BERMAN: We've talked to him half a dozen times in the last few months and I had no idea he went through that.

HILL: Never knew that, right? It's amazing.

BERMAN: Oh, and, obviously, donating blood is a wonderful thing.

So, I want to leave you with this. Always check your pool before diving in, especially if you live in Florida. There was an alligator in a backyard pool. The family heard some loud noises while they were sleeping. They woke up and they found this nearly 11 foot alligator swimming. So, the allegator weighs 550 pounds, measures 10'11" and was just kind of lounging inside there, enjoying the water.


We should note that sheriff deputies were able to capture him.

I think this is a thing in Florida. I think that allegators end up in pools.

HILL: I mean they do have alligators in Florida, and they have a lot of pools.

BERMAN: I think allegators end up in pools.

HILL: The guy was just looking for a break. He just wanted to relax a little. You know, spend some time in the pool.

BERMAN: Always look before you dive.

CNN's coverage continues right now.