Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Criticized for Puerto Rico Response; Vital Aid Stranded at Puerto Rico's Main Port; Old U.S Law Blamed for Slowing Aid to Puerto Rico; Macedonian City Dubbed World's Fake News Capital. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, the man who built an empire on sex and beautiful women have died. We'll look at the life if the Playboy Founder, Hugh Hefner. Plus, aid is beginning to arrive at hurricane- ravaged Puerto Rico but it's still not getting to the people who need it most. And later, how a small city in the Balkans have turned to the world's capital for fake news. Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

Really is the end of an era. Playboy Magazine Founder, Hugh Hefner, has died at his home -- the Playboy mansion of natural causes. Hefner, scandalized America in 1953 when he published nude photos of Hollywood Starlet, Marilyn Monroe, in the first edition of his new magazine. In the decades that followed, he built an entertainment empire of magazines, nightclubs, and T.V. shows. Hef, as he was called, became a symbol of the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Selling the Playboy philosophy, often appearing in silk pajamas and smoking a pipe. He once told CNN, he wanted to be remembered a someone who has changed the world in some positive way. Hugh Hefner was 91.

Well, with us now to discuss Hefner's life and influence and Pop Culture Expert, Segun Odoulowu; and on the phone, Paul Bond, of the Hollywood Reporter. Thank you, to you both for joining us. Paul, if I could start with you. You wrote a great piece in the Hollywood Reporter that told me so much about Hugh Hefner that I had no idea about. Let's start that with the fact -- let's start with the fact that he borrowed less than $10,000 in 1953 to start the magazine, Playboy. And somehow, he managed to turn it into a global brand. Tell us how he did.

PAUL BOND, BUSINESS EDITOR, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Yes. He borrowed about a grand from his parents, and the rest of it came from, like, 40 different investors. It was pretty amazing how little he needed to launch this thing, and how many people he got it from. But you know, he managed to do it and he -- when he printed the first magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, he didn't even date it because he wasn't sure the thing would be successful. So, he thought, he would do one magazine and then he'd be done, and, you know, it turned into a lifelong career and it made him into a multimillionaire. And he did exactly what he said out to do: he changed the world in some small and big ways. SESAY: Yes, he certainly did. And Segun, to you, it was said, you

know, less than $10,000, he built this empire, he built this magazine that is a global brand; it's an American icon. But what does it stand for today? We know what it stood for in its heyday, what about now?

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, TELEVISION STUDIO ANALYST: I mean, right now, it stands for free speech, it stands for expression, it stands for empowerment, it stands for the American ideal, it stands for greatness. If you know anything about Hugh Hefner, which I hope people will go and Google him and forget all about the magazine. This guy fought in World War II. He's a veteran. And as Paul said, he started the magazine with $8,000, at the time of his death, and he lived to be 91 and lived to be a great 91.

As we can talk about, Hugh Hefner is 91 years. But at the time of his death, Playboy was totaling a billion dollars in sales annually. So, you had models, you had celebrities -- their first interview was with Miles Davis. They had writers like Jack Kerouac, and Ian Fleming to write for the magazine. He brought to America something they didn't see before. He gave if you want to say pornography or smut, he gave it class. He reshaped the way we thought about sex. I think every, like, red-blooded American man or man around the world needs to raise their right fist in solidarity that our hero is gone. Hugh Hefner was, I mean, I died and come back? Can I please come back as Hugh Hefner? You've lived the greatest life known to man.

SESAY: I don't have the power to grant you that, but I think God hears prayer. Paul, to you. I mean, you here Segun talking in such impassioned way about, you know, what Hugh Hefner did and what he means to the world. I mean, give me your sense and your thoughts on the Playboy philosophy and how it has stood the test of time.

BOND: Well, it's certainly have turned that. I mean, it's changed over the years, but remember in the '60s and '70s, it wasn't all as great as people are remembering now. I mean, there were a lot of women very upset with him. You know, they did the same thing, he was empowering them. They thought that he was objectifying them. So, there was a big debate raging in the '60s and the '70s on whether or not he was making a positive impact or negative impact. And I think those who argued that he was making a positive impact on the day, you know, in his later years.

[01:05:24] But, you know, I've been to the Playboy mansion four times for four different Hugh Hefner parties, and they are always -- it's very eclectic, bizarre evenings, where they have sports stars and Hollywood celebrities, and, you know, his ex-girlfriend and his ex- wife, and bunnies from the '70s, and from the '90s all hanging out with each other. It was quite the eclectic thing. And I know that the Hollywood will really miss him, and they'll really miss his impact, and they'll really look at him as a guy who really, kind of, changed pop culture forever, and they will have fond memories of all of those parties at the Playboy mansion that they are invited to.

SESAY: Well, Paul, as you made it to the Playboy mansions and attended parties, most of us, I think here, did not.

ODUOLOWU: Isha, I went to --


SESAY: OK. You hang on for a second. I'll come back to you. Paul, your experiences at the party -- let's not get into details, but, I mean, did you get to Hugh? I mean, what was he like as a person or being in the room with him?

BOND: Well, he was always very nice. I was always there as a reporter. So, I was a little bit different than the invited guest. But he always treated us very well, and give tours on the mansion and tours on the ground. Then, he just let us hang out and party with the rest of the celebrities. And it was always kind of, like, a surreal experience because of the eclectic group of people that were there.


BOND: And you know, you pitch in the pool with, you know, one of his ex-wives or, you know, playing the Playboy pinball machine with, you know, Danny Bonaduce from the "Partridge Family." You know -- and you know, Don Adams from "Get Smart", you know, it was just all of these great stars from T.V. upon the '60s and the '70s that were usually there. And throughout the room, there'd be, you know, in your superstar athletes from the '90s. And so, he was always very (INAUDIBLE), he was always a gracious host.

And you know, everybody always wants to hang out in the grotto, you know, with that underground pool with all the caves. And you know, it was kind of like a throwback to the '60s. You know, if you saw the grotto in person, you're thinking, (INAUDIBLE), the stuff we have now in Las Vegas. You know, you can imagine it in the '60s, you know, with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin hanging out there and it would have been pretty darn cool.

SESAY: Yes. Segun -- Paul, thank you for sharing that. Segun, yes, OK. So, you went.

ODUOLOWU: I've been, yes. I did not go as Paul, as a reporter, I was a guest. I was an invited guest.

SESAY: OK. So, first of all, what was it like? And I guess, my other question on top of that is, as Paul mentioned, there were always these celebrities there. Like, even towards the end of his life or what, in the later part of his life, his social capital, his celebrity capital remained high.

ODUOLOWU: Yes. There are few celebrities that had his wattage of power. You would be in that room, and as Paul said, you would see athletes -- professional football players, basketball players; you would see Lakers, you would see Dodgers, you would actors and actresses. When he entered the room, you know, that everybody kind of stopped, like you, could feel his presence -- he was the brightest star in a room full of stars.

And for a man who wasn't that big in stature, he just commanded a presence. And you know, there are stories about the Playboy parties. There are, you know, how can you get invited and if playmates and this, but the one thing I will say about going to it is you knew it was history. Like, you know, you kind of had arrived in the Hollywood sense that you had been invited to one of these parties. And I think that when we remember Hugh Hefner, as Paul said, the fight that he had with the sexual revolution, I think when we go back a look at it, you will see how much of the pioneering, how he pushed it forward, how he gave people a voice and showed them something different. That you could, you know, you could look at a woman's body and it may be, if you wanted to objectify, but you would still see that these women, a lot of his playmates were college graduates, he would have the issue of the beautiful women of different college.

SESAY: And he has in-depth interviews in the magazine with really smart talented accomplished women.

ODUOLOWU: And that talented women are writers when other magazines weren't really doing that. So, I don't you could box him in and say that he was this or he was a smut peddler or was this icon or he was a smoke. He was all of these things. He a revolutionary. He interviewed Fidel Castro in the magazine, that when people weren't taking these types of chances, he took risks. And again, he will be sorely missed, because you're not going to find someone great like this again. We're losing a star.

SESAY: Unless, you get your wish to come back as Hugh Hefner.

ODUOLOWU: If I get my wish to come back as Hugh Hefner, you know.

[01:10:11] SESAY: But Paul Bond from the Hollywood Reporter, thank you so much. It's so great to have had you with us to share your insights, and it's a great article that you wrote on Hugh Hefner. I urge everyone to read it. Segun Oduolowu, always a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for sharing with us your heartfelt wish in life.

ODUOLOWU: Thank you. To the friends and families of Hugh Hefner, we're all same sending our prayers. Great man.

SESAY: Let's turn now to the situation in Puerto Rico. Vital aid has arrived but it's being held up in the capital's port. Hurricane Maria damaged the island's infrastructure and caused shortages of fuel and truck drivers. Meanwhile, millions are suffering without basic necessities like food and water.


RICARDO ROSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: This has been the biggest catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico in terms of a natural disaster. We essentially have lost all power. We have lost all telecoms. You know roads have been hampered, human resources have been limited, and on top of that, we're on an island.


SESAY: Well, critics say the U.S government should do more. Lawmakers are urging President Donald Trump to wave a federal law that bans foreign ships from moving goods between U.S. port. The president said he's thinking about and also says relief efforts will take time.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Puerto Rico is a difficult situation. I mean, that place was just destroyed. That's not a question of, gee, let's dry up the water or let's do this or that. I mean, that place was flattened. That is a really tough situation, and I feel bad for people.


SESAY: Well, CNN has a team of reporters across Puerto Rico, covering all aspects of this humanitarian crisis. Bill Weir is Vieques, it's an island just east of the mainland where thousands are now cut off from the rest of Puerto Rico.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Landing in what is normally a tropical paradise, the first impressions are a shock, awe, and dread. It looks like a war zone with every lush tree stripped and broken. The tarmac littered with shattered planes. We catch a ride through the wreckage to the town center, where the deputy mayor tells me all of the 10,000 residents survived the storm, but a few of the frailest have died since. After a charity, Vieques brought in a few satellite phones. The battered locals wait in the heat for the first contact to the world in weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are out of food. We're running out of food and water.

WEIR: That is the kind of heartbreaking, soul-draining scene that getting played out again and again as people look at her cry as she gets on a satellite phone for the first time. It crushes your soul to watch that. And this is the line, this is a two-hour line of folks waiting to get proof of life to a wife or a husband or a father. It's rough. This is an officer who lives on the island. He's from the State National Guard, the Puerto Rico National Guard, but he can't carry a gun for security until he is activated, and bureaucratic red tape is holding that up.

Things are so primitive -- they drive around in a speaker truck letting people know when water is coming if water is coming. I just spoke to former President of the Senate here in Puerto Rico, current senator, who gave me the most impassioned plea yet from an official that they needed general, any ships, and they need help right.

EDUARDO BHATIA, SENATOR OF PUERTO RICO: This is something that needs and requires somebody who knows how to distribute goods in almost a war zone.

WEIR: So, you're making a plea for Martial Law?

BHATIA: I am making a plea for Martial Law. I'm making a plea for having three, four, five days where we can distribute diesel or we can distribute water, whether it's going to be food. I mean, it's been six days after the hurricane and it's a horrible scenario in Puerto Rico. We need orders and we need to follow a certain amount of law. And right now, it's no man's land at night, after 7:00 p.m., it's no man's land and that should stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost everything.

WEIR: Bill Weir, CNN, Vieques, Puerto Rico.


SESAY: For more, we are joined now by Daniel Kaniewski. Daniel is the Deputy Administrator for the National Preparedness at FEMA. Thank you so much for joining us. I want to start with the situation in Puerto Rico where the governor has said that over the last couple of days that the island is facing a humanitarian crisis. I mean, the basic question in all of this is: could FEMA have handled things differently better even to prevent the island from reaching such a critical point?

DANIEL KANIEWSKI, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS AT FEMA: Well currently right now, we're trying to stabilize the situation and sustain our operations. We know that this is going to be a long-term commitment on behalf of FEMA and the entire U.S federal government to support the islands that have been this devastated by this terrible hurricane. I can say that as result of the president's disaster declaration and the dedicated federal workforce that some of whom you see sitting behind me, and others nearly 10,000 on the island right now. We're going to help these disaster survivors and we're going to help the governments of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands recover from this disaster.

[01:15:39] SESAY: So, for the loved ones of those island residents who have the opportunity to watch the conversation we're having, because largely a lot of these places don't have power. But for the loved ones who are sitting on the mainland and have the question of why has it been so slow, the delivery of aid, what do you say to them?

KANIEWSKI: Yes. Certainly, this is a unique challenge for us. If this were in the continental United States, we might not be having this conversation, simply because commodities and power and other challenges we're facing would be something would be right here on the ground as opposed to -- quite frankly, where I'm sitting right now is 1500 miles from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and that's a huge logistical challenge.

It requires us to ship everything in by ship or by air, and that is causing tremendous challenges when you consider the air traffic control system was badly damaged. And we're only able to get in in a limited number of flights per day. The ships are coming into the port and those have a massive amount of commodities and other necessary supplies, and we're moving the right direction. The biggest challenge we face right now in the delays that you speak of is largely the result of distributing those commodities once they arrive on the islands.

SESAY: So, if the bottleneck is occurring once the aid gets to the island, and that's where the problem is, what is FEMA doing to work that out? I mean, what has changed between the start of the week and now where we're hearing a lot more about FEMA's efforts there in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands? What is different?

KANIEWSKI: In both the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico, there's a diminished capacity for the local officials on the ground to respond. We have to realize that many of the local responders were victims themselves. And the process is feeding up; we are working with those local officials to support their efforts and when were necessary bring in our capabilities to do that mission.

SESAY: Let me ask you this as we talk about getting aid in, and, of course, you've already covered the issue of getting it from those ports of entry. But I want to ask you about the Jones Act because there's talk about that. This is the law that requires all goods ferried between U.S. ports and is carried on ships built, owned, and operated by Americans. I mean, what difference would that make to FEMA's effort in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for that matter if this was waived, which is what several people on the Capitol Hill are calling for.

KANIEWSKI: Sure. At the moment, like I said, we have sufficient commodities on the islands. It's a challenge of distributing those commodities. So, at the moment, the U.S. flagged vessels that are bringing in those commodities are sufficient. In the future, if this needs to be reviewed, I'm sure that that will be a consideration for us to consider them.

SESAY: And just very quickly. The last question, then I'll let you get back to far more important things. Do you feel fairly confident at this stage that FEMA has a full sense of the damage and the needs that, in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. Virgin Islands has a full damage assessment is completed? Do you know what you're doing, and where you're going, and what needs to happen next?

KANIEWSKI: Well, I will say there is situational awareness that improves day by day. As the communications get stronger -- and that's going to include satellite phones, for example, that our responders have or the satellite phones that we've been distributing to local officials on the ground. We're getting a better sense of the specific needs in those areas. Early on, we were pushing commodities and other supplies as much as we could, as fast as we could.

Now, the challenge is distributing those to the people who need those most. And I think we are making significant progress, especially over the last 24 to 48 hours and we'll continue to make progress in the future. We have a large sustainment force there. We will be continuing those operations, and we have several efforts underway right now that I'm confident will improve this moving forward.

SESAY: Well, Daniel Kaniewski, we wish you the very best. There are millions of people counting on the efforts of FEMA, so good luck in the days ahead and thank you for joining us.

[01:20:14] KANIEWSKI: Thank you. SESAY: All right. We're going to take a quick break now. President

Trump is trying to pitch his plan for tax reform, but he can't stop talking about his feud with pro athletes. Why does he say the NFL's business is going to hell? Plus, how people around the world are reacting to Saudi women's new legal right to drive for the first time ever.


SESAY: U.S. President Donald Trump is rolling out the blueprint for the awaited Republican tax reform plan. It would cut the corporate tax rate, abolish the inheritance tax, and lower the number of household tax brackets from seven to three. Mr. Trump says it's all about putting Americans first.


TRUMP: We have surrendered our competitive edge to other countries, but we're not surrendering anymore. We're not surrendering anymore. Under our framework, we will dramatically cut the business tax rate so that American companies and American workers can beat our foreign competitors and start winning again.


SESAY: Well, a tax reform was one of President Trump's main campaign pledges. Joining us now is CNN's Political Commentators, Democratic Strategist Dave Jacobson, and Republican Consultant John Thomas. Gentlemen, good to see you once again.


SESAY: The president talking about tax reform on Wednesday, but also keeping the feud with the NFL going. He's not backing away. In fact, some would say he's doubling down. Take a listen to what he had to say.


TRUMP: The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country, and that's what they are doing. And in my opinion, the NFL has to change or you know what's going to happen in their business, it's going to go to hell.


SESAY: John, to you first, why won't the president let this go, bearing in mind it's quite clear from the days that it has been out there that so many people are upset about it, that so many people consider it divisive? Why, why is he doubling down?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, number one, the president never apologizes. I think we've learned that consistently. But number two, polling since this has happened has revealed that while NFL players certainly aren't happy with it, strong partisans aren't happy with it on the left. Most polling says that 66 percent of Americans don't think that you should not be kneeling during the pledge allegiance or the anthem. So, he thinks this is a political winner, I think, through and through so he's going to keep going on this until -- especially if somebody in the NLF overplays their hand which I wouldn't be surprised in the coming days if they do.

JACOBSON: It was actually a Republican polling firm that put out a piece -- firehouse strategies. They did the polling for Marco Rubio -- one of the firms that that were associated with Marco Rubio presidential campaign. It said that 64 percent of those that they surveyed said the president should not be talking about the NFL and should be talking about other issues. I think that underscores the fact that, like, Republicans are salivating for things to get done in Washington.

[01:25:19] THOMAS: That is true.

JACOBSON: They have not done the wall. China has not labeled the currency manipulator. There's no ACA repeal. The list goes on. They failed to deliver on anything, and I think Republicans are agitated, they're frustrated and they want to change, and he's talking about the NFL.

SESAY: He's talking about the NFL, and it has seized the headlines for days on end. And he's talking about the NFL and this Quinnipiac poll that came out on Wednesday shows 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the way he's handling race relations. I want you to take a listen to Spike Lee, who is part of a CNN Town Hall that we did earlier on Wednesday. Take a listen to what he had to say.


SPIKE LEE, AMERICAN FILM DIRECTOR: Politics and sports have always been intertwined and you can't live in the United States of America, the race is part of the DNA of this country. This country -- the foundation in America was the genocide of native Americans and slavery. That's the foundation of this country that cannot be disputed, and so that's foundation and everything else comes from that.


SESAY: All right. So, Dave, we have John giving the stats of over 60 percent of people believe that you shouldn't kneel during the pledge of allegiance. You have more than 60 percent in the Quinnipiac poll saying that president is bad for race relations. From Democrats' point of view, does this become a fault line that you try to exploit in the midterms? I mean, is this something that you now say, you know, what identity politics is something that we want to actually focus on if only to show how divisive it is.

JACOBSON: I think it's too early to tell whether or not that's going to be an issue that we exploit for the campaign. But I think this is something that turns off moderate voters, independent voters, and we saw also largely in poll after poll -- it's come out in the last couple of days -- that over 60 percent of Americans don't fundamentally believe that NFL players should be fired for expressing their first amendment rights.

The fact is, at least in my opinion, I think a lot of people's opinion if you get down on one knee and you have the ability to do that, that's exercising your freedom of speech. That's an act of patriotism in and of itself. And I think Democrats need to continue to talk about it, but it's no secret. Like, Donald Trump is a known racist and xenophobe. The fact is the whole -- many sides comment after Charlottesville, I mean, come on, he's equating White Supremacist and Nazis with --

THOMAS: I think the challenge is he ran on fixing immigration, building the wall, and that inherently triggers people who can make the claim that he's a racist.

SESAY: No. I don't think that is true.

THOMAS: But for me, it's from the outset -- from the outset when he started campaigning.

SESAY: He's had the lawsuit against him for not taking in Black people, minorities, not renting properties to them. There's a whole situation with the central park, a group of young men that he said were responsible for crimes that they didn't commit. I mean, again, you know, it's not happening in a vacuum, it's not just about what he said on the campaign trail, what he said even as a private citizen, that's what has led people to the streets.

THOMAS: Yes. I think the challenge to Democrats is going to face is they have -- they're comfortable in an identity politics battle. And the problem with that -- even if they can make persuasive arguments is, I think, that's one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost because she made that argument and forgot the class argument because that's what's afflicting most Americans.

SESAY: I need to move on to Puerto Rico quickly because the president, John, has been accused or criticized for being for dropping the ball, for being aloof when it comes to the situation on the island. Listen to what he said on Wednesday about what is happening there.


TRUMP: Puerto Rico is a very difficult situation. I mean, that place was just destroyed. That is not a question of, gee, let's dry up the water or let's do this and that, and that place was flattened. That is a really tough situation. I feel so badly for the people.


SESAY: John, would you agree with the criticism that the president's response, even just optically to what happened in Florida and Texas has been different from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And that people -- you know, I mean, do you see any reason to support those people in those places who say they feel like they haven't been treated like American citizens, are they being forgotten?

[01:29:40] THOMAS: I completely understand why they feel that way. I mean, first of all, the president's right in a sense of Puerto Rico has had financial serious, institutional, structural financial challenges that have hurt its ability to protect and recover itself. But then logistically, as you hear FEMA even say, it's -- you can't just move trucks and bodies in from adjacent states, it's not that simple. So, it's been a bigger challenge to get them the care that they need. So, I completely understand why Puerto Rico feels the way they do. I think the president is going, what? Next week, he's going to actually visit it.


THOMAS: Look, my heart breaks for the people down there. And it is a tragedy. But I don't think that the president would ever deliberately slow aid or not pay as much attention. That seems silly. Certainly, there are logistic issues that make it different.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is abhorrent that 90 percent on the island doesn't have electricity. And we are sending fighter jets to Korea and Japan. We have the most dominating military force on the plant. The fact we haven't sent naval ships out there or supplies out there or done more to help those people. These are American citizen. These are not folks from another country. They're part of this nation. And that is in my opinion.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: We'll leave it there.

Thank you for the great conversation as always.

The president heads to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday. We will all be watching and we shall discuss.

Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

SESAY: Quick break on NEWSROOM L.A. A look at the U.S. naval assault ship that is supporting Puerto Rico's relief efforts. We'll have all the details.


SESAY: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

The headlines this hour.


SESAY: Puerto Rico is struggling to get aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Many people desperately need food and water. Supplies have arrived but the island's infrastructure is so damaged these vital necessities is stuck at a port. Lack of fuel and truck drivers is also hurting relief efforts. Ivan Watson is with the U.S. Navy, which is providing relief supplies to remote areas by ship.


[01:34:49] IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Citizens of Colombia escaping the U.S. island of Puerto Rico, evacuated by their governments aboard a Colombia air force plane. And it is hard to blame them.

Aboard a U.S. Navy helicopter, you get a sense of the scale of the damage here. A week after Hurricane Maria barreled across Puerto Rico, transport, electricity, drinking water and telecommunication are seriously if not completely destroyed. This devastated island still needs so much help. And the U.S. military is uniquely positioned to assist.

The "USS Kearsarge" (ph) is an amphibious assault ship. But here, it's a floating logistical hub.

(on camera): The "USS Kearsarge" (ph) is supporting Puerto Rico on land, sea and air, not only with these vertical take-off Ospreys but with also boats and trucks and bulldozers on the ground.

REAR ADM. JEFF HUGHES, U.S. NAVY: We continue to do search and rescue so we are able to respond if we get a call.

WATSON: The "Kearsarge" shipped out last month to help with the destruction caused by the back-to-back hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and now Maria.

HUGHES: We are doing a lot of work to move logistics, those critical life supplies, water, food, medical supplies, to different parts of the island where they may not be accessible be accessible by ground.

WATSON: Among the men and women helping with this effort, Puerto Rican sailors with families on the island.

(on camera): Have you been able to speak with your families since Hurricane Maria?


WATSON: None of you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be this close and to see what the island is going through right now and the position it's in and not have the liberty to go help out and help out whoever, that's the more frustrating part. But we have a job to do on board the ship.

WATSON (voice-over): Everybody plays their part here.

(on camera): The ship has two parking garages, like this, full of heavy vehicles. And it is ferrying them to Puerto Rico on landing craft via this well deck.

(voice-over): In recent days, sailors and Marines have moved a desalinization unit to the island to distribute clean drinking water. And bulldozers to open up roads blocked by debris. Each delivery accompanied by hopes and prayers from the sailors left onboard the ship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pray and I give you guys all my strength that I have. And we will stay out here as long as we need to help you guys get back on your feet.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, aboard the "USS Kearsarge" (ph).


SESAY: Some lawmakers say aid deliveries to Puerto Rico are being held up by an old obscure law, the Jones Act of 1920 says all ships moving from U.S. ports must be built, owned and operated by Americans. But critics say it needs to be lifted to get more supplies moving. President Trump is weighing what to do.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are thinking about that. But we have a lot of shippers, a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted. And we have a lot of ships out there right now.


SESAY: Defense attorney, Brian Claypool, joins me now.

Brian, always good to have you with us.


SESAY: This is a World War I-era shipping law. Explain to our international viewers why it was enacted in the first place.

CLAYPOOL: It was enacted right after World War I because the United States was worried about what is called German U-boats. They had sunk nearly 5,000 U.S. ships during World War I. So we enacted this law to have the military ready and prepared in the event of another national emergency. So it's purely for military purpose.

SESAY: OK, purely for military purposes, but it's still on the books. The president says he is weighing in on it but says some American ship owners, shipping companies are against it being waived. Why?

CLAYPOOL: Isha, this is a classic case of politics being pitted against public safety. I find it tragic that, in a dark moment like this, people in Puerto Rico are gasping for air, they need water, and electricity and food. And we have a very powerful shipping lobbyist group. Four powerful shipping companies who send goods to Puerto Rico. There's powerful lobbying group that represents those four shipping companies. Senator John McCain, two years ago, submitted a bill in Congress to repeal the Jones Act, but this powerful lobbying group shut it down.

SESAY: It's interesting that after Houston, Texas, and Florida, they defended it immediately in the aftermath of the hurricanes that battered those areas. But weighing -- some critics saying wavering coming to Puerto Rico, which is added to the sense that these people are being treated differently, the people on that island.

[01:39:53] CLAYPOOL: I feel they are being treated differently. To give an example -- I wrote this down. This is astounding. The cost to ship a 20-foot container of household goods to Puerto Rico from the east coast of the U.S. is $3,063. The cost to ship the same goods to Santo Domingo, $1,504, twice the cost. That's the effect of the Jones Act. We have a monopoly with U.S. shipping companies. You're barring foreign companies. For example, people in Puerto Rico need medicine, medical supplies. Don't you think they could get it a lot cheaper from Canadian pharmaceutical? Much cheaper. They can't do that under the Jones Act. That's why we need the exemption enacted by President Trump.

SESAY: Or some say it needs to be permanently taken off the books.


CLAYPOOL: That is -- that is where -- I don't think we'll see that happen because of the powerful shipping lobbying group. For example, there are workers in all 50 states in the United States who participate in building what are called component parts to ships, for all the ships. Think about it. All the Congressmen, congress ladies, they have constituents nationwide involved in the shipping business. It would be hard to repeal. But you have to grant at least a year exemption.

SESAY: Brian, thank you so much. That was really important insight. Really appreciate it.

CLAYPOOL: You bet. Thank you.

SESAY: If you want to learn how to help the hurricane victims, go to You can donate to a charity we've already vetted for you or you can volunteer your time. All of it is much needed.

We'll take a quick break. Next on NEWSROOM L.A., a journey to the fake news capital of the world. The people behind these Web sites explain why they intentionally mislead their readers.


SESAY: Fake news has become a household phrase in the last couple of years and the problem is getting worse. Every day, fictional but believable stories are planted on social media sites as so-called click bait. If there is a world capital for this kind of dubious activity, it is Veles, Macedonia.

Our Isa Soares traveled there to meet some of the people behind it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tucked away in the hills of former Yugoslav Republic's Macedonia is the city of Veles, a place many thousands of miles away from Washington. But their voices echo across America.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: So-called fake news can have real-world--

TRUMP: Fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony.


SOARES: In the build up to the U.S. election, over a hundred fake news Web sites were traced to the city.

Today, fake news producers are still pumping out false headlines. In a shocking revelation, one reveals his main target, 2020.

[01:45:10] (on camera): About seven tabs or so are open. Just in, Sara Palin politicalized. The stories I'm reading are completely fake.

The stories on this particular Web site are fake. Other Web sites are going further. They are mixing fact and fiction.

That is a lie and that is mixed in with news in the main political page.

And someone in the U.S. could potentially be influenced by that.

They make you want to click and they make you want to share.

(voice-over): Web site owners make their money from advertising. Platforms like Google place ads on their site. Every page for this, and it quickly adds up, with hundreds of thousands of clicks. Then to drive traffic, fake news producers use Facebook. All with the hope they will go viral.

We spook to Facebook and Google who told us they are actively identifying and blocking accounts linked to fake news.

On ground, producers are adapting. Many are reluctant to speak openly about the industry, as we learned, at a local cafe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You create Facebook profiles by yourself they will take it down.

SOARES (on camera): How do you get around that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We buy many profiles from kids and then we chance the names to American names.


SOARES: You change it to American names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Small kids. They've never hand two euros before. It's all about the money.

SOARES (voice-over): The money is the driving force here. At the very top, people making a lot of it.

We are driven out of the city center and taken to an industrial part of town, all to protect the identity of a man who says he is one of the pioneers of fake news in Veles.

(on camera): To the first office?

Michal has arrived. He is logged into his Web site.

And I notice it is not your name.


SOARES: It is someone else's profile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have fake accounts so I can reach more and more people.

SOARES: So here, you are Jessica.

A lot of people commenting and a lot of people sharing. What are you working on now? What are you looking ahead to now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My primary goal to prepare a site like I was having before, to be ready for the next election in America.

SOARES: U.S. election?


SOARES: How do you prepare for something like that? What are you looking at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Create a million fan page. You see, Jessica, it is a fake. A lot of fake pages, fake numbers. Because at the beginning, you need to do that to make people like your page. I know how it is to build a site and I can do it again. I can tell you how much money I have earned in one day. Maybe $200 to $500 for one day. For this kind of money, earning per day, you have to have a fan page of half million or a million people.

SOARES: What makes a good clickable story in your opinion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interesting topic. Everything Donald Trump says is worth listening. He is an interesting face. When you have a million fans, if you post something, if you post something, even if it is not interesting, a lot will open it and you will get money.

SOARES: You don't know if it is true or not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know and I don't care. If people open, I'm getting paid.

SOARES: Are you proud of what you have achieved?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In two years, I was earning more than someone who will not earn in his entire life. So, yes, I am proud.

SOARES (voice-over): Later, at the opening of a new bar in Veles, we see how his generation spends their money. Here, the alcohol is flowing and cash is being thrown around. Even the mayor of Veles has made an appearance. This is what a digital gold rush looks like.

With the celebrations over, the mayor tells us what he thinks of this lucrative industry.

(on camera): Young fake news producers have put Veles on the world map. Are you proud of that?


SOARES: It may be legal, but is it morally right?


SOARES: Is there a bigger purpose behind these guys who is influencing them to influence the next U.S. election?


SOARES (voice-over): The allure of fast cash is attractive in a country where the average salary is a little more than $400 a month.


SOARES: This man promises young Macedonians he can change their fortune.

(on camera): You think of him as a role model?


SOARES (voice-over): He teaches them how to run click bait Web sites.

(on camera): At what point did you start getting students knocking on your door or calling and you say, I want to create a fake news Web site. Teach me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defining moment was when some of my students discovered they can earn money writing about politics. It spread like fire. At least four of my students are millionaires.

SOARES: Four are millionaires?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least four. Many new students invested a lot to get maybe some loans from the banks to grow their Facebook pages.

SOARES (voice-over): I almost understand why they are doing this. High unemployment. Very little opportunities here in the city.

As long as people in the United States keep engaging, keep clicking, keep sharing, keep liking, these guys will be in business.


SESAY: Quick break. Next on NEWSROOM L.A., worldwide reaction to Saudi women are being allowed to legally drive for the first time ever.


SESAY: Hello, everyone. Here in California, at least one person killed and another injured after a rockfall at one of the most famous climbing locations in the U.S. El Capitan is a popular granite formation at Yosemite National Park. Park officials say many climbers are still in the area. The rockslide sent boulders tumbling on a popular trail. Search and rescue teams are on-site. We'll provide further updates in the coming hours.

Women in Saudi Arabia are celebrating a royal decree that will allow them to legally drive a vehicle there next year. The landmark step was announced earlier this week, bringing Saudi Arabia in line with the rest of the world.

Our Jeanne Moos is gaging reaction.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thelma and Louise, your next desert will be in Saudi Arabia. The news rang out, from the U.N. --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giving women the right to drive.


MOOS: -- to the "Daily Show --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That will allow women in Saudi Arabia to drive.



MOOS: -- prompting Hillary Clinton to tweet, "It's about time. Ladies, start your engines."

Until now, Saudi Arabians only started their engines to protest and drive around illegally.


[01:55:12] MOOS: As this activist/author did in 2011. She got arrested and charged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The crime, driving while female.

MOOS: Now she is tweeting, "Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop."

Some Saudi women were downright gleeful. Tweeted one, "Stated from the bottom in a bumper car, and now we are here in a real one."

Women should be able to get driver's license starting this summer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't wait until June.

MOOS: Some non-Saudis were sarcastic. "Oh, wow, Saudi Arabia trying to catch up with the world. One century at a time, guys."

But singer, Rihanna, Instagramed a celebratory illustration.

Some Saudi women spend a third or more of their salary to pay low-wage foreigners to drive them to work. This cartoon showed a woman driving one of those chauffeurs to the airport, wishing him safe travels.

(on camera): Figures Saudi women would finally get the right to drive just when cars about to become self-driving.

(voice-over): "Time to throw this joke to the history dump," read one tweet, with a Thelma and Louise cartoon. "It was only eight minutes," says the husband. "They edited out all scenes of women driving," answers the wife.


MOOS: Time for that ban on women driving to be driven right off a cliff.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SESAY: We'll see what the road ahead is like.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

Be sure to join us on Twitter, @cnnnewsroomla.. You can watch highlights and clips from our show.

We will be right back with more news after this.


SESAY: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --


[02:00:00] Hello, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.