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Gas Prices to Surge; Amazon's Alexa Records and Emails A Private Conversation; Illinois GOP Candidate Says 9/11 Was A Hoax; Homeless Youth Gets Scholarship to Harvard. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hitting the road on this busy Memorial Day weekend is going to cost you. That is because gas prices are up 31 percent from the same time a year ago, the average price a gallon nearing $3. It comes just a couple weeks after the U.S. pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. He with me to discuss CNN political commentator and opinion columnist for from "The Washington Post," Catherine Rampell. What is it going up?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN political commentator and opinion columnist for "The Washington Post": A lot of things are going on. Certainly, pulling out of the Iran deal didn't help because it means that if there are new sanctions put on Iran than that could sideline a lot of supply.

BALDWIN: But that's just part of it.

RAMPELL: That's just part of it. This increase in gas prices and oil prices long predates us pulling out of the Iran deal. You have OPEC and Russia getting together and saying we're going to restrict supply because there was this glut before. You may remember that prices were quite low. I think they bottomed out around early 2016, they've been rising since then. There are a lot of things going on. You can't blame any one factor.

BALDWIN: Part of it is pulling out of the Iran deal. That was a win for the Trump administration. Another win for the Trump administration is of course as we talk so much about was tax reform. They're saying it will be wonderful, your paycheck will be fatter, your wallet will be fatter, but the reality is people will be spending that money on gas.

RAMPELL: It is going to be probably a little bit of a wash here. And if you look at the survey data even before we had the most recent spike in prices in the last few weeks, people were not noticing the fact they got this tax cut. They're getting a little more money in their paycheck thanks to lower withholding. But they were noticing it. There are too many other things that happen week to week with your pay. Your hours change, your wages change, at the beginning of the year your health insurance premiums changed. So, people weren't feeling that extra pocket money that Republicans were touting. The fact that they are paying more at the pump, they already are paying more at the pump, may make them frustrated about the fact that Republicans promised they were going to be a little bit more in the money and instead they're not feeling any richer. BALDWIN: Just a heads up for all of us going to the gas station.

Catherine, thank you so much.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Alexa. Do you have an Alexa?

RAMPELL: I do not.

BALDWIN: I don't either but I very good friends that have it and this story is creeping them out. This thing has recorded a couple's conversation, it actually then emailed it to someone in their contact list. What? We're going to discuss what this means for you and your privacy.


BALDWIN: Alexa, what is my worst nightmare? This woman in Portland, Oregon is sharing this shocking story about her smart speaker. She said her Amazon Echo, aka Alexa, actually recorded a conversation she was having with her husband in the privacy of her own home and then sent the audio to one of his employees in Seattle. Yes, she did. Thank goodness it was just about buying hardwood floors.

[15:40:00] So she did what any of us would do and called Amazon to complain.


DANIELLE, FORMER AMAZON ALEXA USER: He apologized about 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes. And said we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix. I felt invaded. He said thank you for letting us know. This is something we need to fix. I felt like total privacy invasion. Immediately I am like I'm never plugging that device in again. I can't trust it.


BALDWIN: Alison Kosik with CNN money is with me now. This is anyone's worst nightmare.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Especially if you're busy doing something you don't want others to hear.

BALDWIN: We talk about things in the privacy of our own homes. How did this happen?

KOSIK: Amazon is saying it's a rare series of events where Alexa misheard a series of words and sent out this file. It said Echo woke up due to a word in the background conversation sounding like Alexa. When you wake up these devices, you say "Alexa." Then it heard words like send message requests and the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the contact list and bam, that audio was sent to that employee. The microphone on these devices is really sensitive and the thinking is that it heard this background conversation and that perhaps the couple kept the volume down when Alexa was responding saying to whom, they didn't hear it.

BALDWIN: I have so many questions and we just don't have the time for it all. But number one, my take away is that it records whenever you talk to this thing, it records what you're saying.

KOSIK: You have to assume it's recording. One thing to keep in mind, when you invite these devices into your home, you are giving up a bit of anonymity. Just like do you when you go on Facebook or Google. A little of your anonymity is going away. This thing is always recording. It's always on.

BALDWIN: All I am saying is good thing they were just talking about hardwood floors.

KOSIK: Exactly, hardwood floors. Real fast, I will tell you how to shut that thing off. There's a microphone mute button on top and the top of the device will turn red and we can all assume that the voice activator is turned off, but you never know. I say take a hammer to it and get it the heck out of the house.

BALDWIN: Amazon is not loving this story today. Thank you for coming by. Appreciate it. Coming up next, things that are often shrugged off, conspiracy theories or the real beliefs of a Republican nominee for Congress. We are talking 9/11, believes it is an inside job, and Beyonce is part of the illuminati. You have to see what CNN dug up on this guy.

Also, no summit, now possible summit, just hit another big development on President Trump's face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong Un that he had abruptly canceled. The White House is once again communicating with the North Koreans. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: All right. More new hope for this scrapped summit after President Trump pulled the plug on his face to face with Kim Jong Un. Then open the door again today. The National Security Council confirming to CNN that talks with the North Koreans are indeed back on. We're told communications have now continued after a breakdown. So, stay tuned till that next episode.

The Republican nominee for a U.S. House seat in Illinois is causing some concern. Real estate broker Bill Falwell not backing down from conspiracy theories he's pushed over the years that the September 11th terrorist were an inside job and that Beyonce has ties to the Illuminati. He's set to face off with Democratic opponent Bustos in November.

CNN's investigative team KFile has been digging into his past. Our senior editor Andrew Kaczynski is with me now. What did you uncover?

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: All right. So, this guy Bill Falwell is reasoning in the 17th congressional district in Illinois. It's a district that Trump won by 1 percent. The Democrat in that race, Jerry Bustos, you mentioned she beat the Republicans by 20 points. The Republicans didn't really make an effort to recruit a candidate. So, this guy, who wrote in his book that 9/11 was a controlled demolition and I think he went a little bit further when he was speaking with us and said, quote, "jet fuel can't melt steel beams." he's a very big 9/11 truther and he's captured the nomination for this district.

BALDWIN: And what is this about Beyonce and the Illuminati?

KACZYNSKI: A few years ago, he wrote in a blog post that Beyonce and Jay-Z on his web site had ties to the Illuminati. Now, when we spoke to him on the phone, he also added that Taylor Swift had ties to the Illuminati as well.

BALDWIN: Expanding the tribe.

KACZYNSKI: Expanding it. And he also wrote that Madonna was a narcissistic skank with crooked teeth who also had ties to the Illuminati. So that is this guy.

BALDWIN: And we don't know why he believes this. He just --

KACZYNSKI: He seems actually very convinced. When we called him, he wanted to talk a lot and it seems like he very much believes this.

BALDWIN: OK. Andrew, and KFile, thank you. Coming up next, a heart- warming story, for your holiday weekend, one of the students in the class of 2018 joins me live to tell me how he went from homeless to getting a full ride to Harvard. First, Stan Hayes was a top ten hero finalist for bringing comfort to disaster victims in the form of barbecue. Now they're expanding to serve veterans all year long.


[15:50:00] STAN HAYS, FOUNDER, OPERATION BBQ RELIEF: We're here with the Gary Sinise Foundation at the Invincible Spirit Festival. How you guys doing? Do you want a pulled pork sandwich?

We're cooking for 6,500 to 7,000 people. Being here where these men and women have given so much while protecting and serving our country is special.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an awesome event. The barbecue is stellar.

HAYS: Barbecue is about bringing people together. For us this is the biggest thank you we can give to those men and women that have served.


BALDWIN: To learn more about Operation BBQ Relief, or nominate someone you know, go to right now.


BALDWIN: From sleeping in homeless shelters as a younger boy to a full ride to Harvard University. Richard Jenkin's story of determination is truly remarkable. He turned his challenging childhood of bullying and medical hurdles and poverty into an Ivy League future and this is just the beginning for him. Rich Jenkins joins me now. So, Harvard, all right. That is pretty darn impressive. How is that feeling? Has that sunk in and can you take me back to the moment when you found out?

RICHARD JENKINS, RECEIVED FULL SCHOLARSHIP TO HARVARD: Yes. So, when I first found out I was in Paris on a school trip. And was on the phone with my girlfriend and I had been so nervous for hours because I was -- I was waiting all day to hear the news. And so, we're on the phone and I finally decided I'm going to check my ivy league decisions because they all come out at the same time and check u-pen and I get wait listed and Yale and I get denied. Maybe time to start looking at other schools and I check Harvard and I saw the world "welcome" and I threw my phone across the room. We are all jumping around. It is a crazy time. Sorry.

BALDWIN: No. It didn't -- did you say -- sink in? Go ahead.

JENKINS: It didn't sink in until probably a couple of days later when I was on the plane back, sitting around listening to music and I'm like, wow, I'm about to go to Harvard. It was insane.

BALDWIN: Yes, you are. Yes, you are. Can you just take me back from now to going to Harvard from your childhood and some of the difficulties that you and your family faced?

JENKINS: So around sixth grade is when everything shifted. At the time I was living in a homeless shelter in Germantown called Duane House. We were basically living -- staying there until we could find a way to get on our feet and hi a conversation with one of my friends because he -- we were walk tomorrow end asked where I lived and Duane house looks like just that -- a big house. It looks like it could be a mansion.

So, I was like, Yes, I live there. And he goes, oh, do you own that? And I'm like, Yes, we do. And it took a little while, but eventually I started thinking about it and oh, god, I really should not have lied about that. And I started feeling bad, because I -- I really don't even like the fact I'm in this position to be able to need to lie about that. And so that is when I flipped the switch and decided, it is time to make a change.

BALDWIN: And you were the kid, rich. It is my understanding if I can, you were the kid in class who was always raising his hand and I read that those kids who were making fun of you for raising your hand called you Harvard.

JENKINS: Yes. That's true.

BALDWIN: Who is laughing now, baby?

JENKINS: Yes, that would be me.

BALDWIN: That would be them. Can you just tell me a little bit more about Mighty Writers? JENKINS: So Mighty Writers is an after-school program for students.

Basically, teaching them writing skills and analytical skills and compositional skills for a place to go to outside of the street because a lot of people in -- especially in West Philly, but they have centers all around, there is not a lot to do outside of sports and if you don't play a sport, well what are you doing? Probably sitting around at home. So, it was a way to give people something else to do that was educational and would help them later on in life.

BALDWIN: It is wonderful. That is wonderful. I have one more for you and then I have to go. I understand your godfather set up a go fund me, and you have a full ride, but he set this up. It is up to over $28,000.


BALDWIN: Your reaction to that and what are you going to use the money for?

JENKINS: So first what I'm going to use the money for is mostly -- well not -- I can't even say mostly because it is way too much to even go to just this. But it will go to school expenses like paying for books, because that kind of stuff isn't covered by my financial aid. I have full room and board and tuition, but there is just some outside costs -- unbilled costs that will still come to me. But aside from that, it will be just money to have to go out -- go throughout daily life.

BALDWIN: Rich Jenkins, from every watching to us here at CNN, just congratulations. Our sincerest congratulations and best of luck to you.

JENKINS: Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for watching. Have a wonderful weekend. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.