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Desperation Grows for Puerto Ricans Waiting for Aid; Russia Undermines American Democracy Using Social Media; Saying Goodbye to a Good Life on Earth; Refugee Flow into U.S. Cut in Half. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Three thousands shipping containers are full of supplies but there's no way to get all the contents to victims of hurricane Maria. And time is running out because the food could go bad and medicine could expire.

Plus, Iraqi Kurds have voted for independence but now Iraq's prime minister wants that vote annulled.

And we say goodbye to Hugh Hefner dead at the age of 91, the founder of the famous Playboy magazine which everyone just read for the articles.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

The aid that Puerto Rico desperately need has made it to the island but much of it is stranded at the port of San Juan. We are talking about food, water, and other critical supplies officials have been begging for still sitting in shipping containers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there are items that are going to expire. And there are medicines expire and food and things like that.

JOSE AYALA, VICE PRESIDENT & GENERAL MANAGER, CROWLEY: Yes. There are going to be some that are going to be expiring. Especially food. I would say food and yes, you just mentioned it medications.

But most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico right now are in such a need, are in such a need. It's very sad and frustrating for whatever reasons that we have plenty of inventories in our ports. There's enough to supply the needs, it's just a matter again how do we move them to the final destination.


CHURCH: More than a week after hurricane Maria 97 percent of Puerto Rico has no power. Most cell service is still down. And almost half the population has no drinking water. People are waiting in line for hours just to get gas and food and supermarket are rationing what they have. So what's causing the holdup? Well, the infrastructure which is still in shambles and an old U.S.

law which bans foreign ships from moving goods between U.S. ports. Some lawmakers wants President Trump to waive that law. But he says the shipping industry won't approve.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people and 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.


CHURCH: The general who led a task force after hurricane Katrina is blasting President Trump's response. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president seems concerned about the shipping industry.

RUSSEL HONORE, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: I want to say between that's a crying damn shame. I knew since yesterday that big shots in Wall Street were making this call. And the president has shown again he don't give a damn about poor people. He doesn't give a damn about people of color. And SOB that rides around in Air Force One is denying services needed by the people of Puerto Rico. I hate to say it that way but there's no other way to say it.


CHURCH: Well, CNN has teams of journalists and correspondents across Puerto Rico covering the devastation there. Bill Weir is in Vieques, and island just east of the mainland where thousands are now cut off from the rest of Puerto Rico.


BILL WEIR, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Landing at what is normally a tropical paradise the first impressions are shock, awe, and dread. It looks like a war zone with every lush trees 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 most frail have died since. After a charity called Vieques Love brought in a few satellite phones, battered locals wait in the heat for their first contact with the world in a week.

We are out of food. We're running out of food and water.

WEIR: That is the kind of heartbreaking soul-draining scene that's getting played out again and again as people look at her cry as she gets on a sat 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 give 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 is from the state National Guard, the Puerto Rico National Guard but he can't carry a gun for security until he is activated.

[03:05:03] 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 need a general, they need ships, and they need help right now.

EDUARDO BHATIA, PUERTO RICAN SENATOR: This is something that needs and requires someone who knows how to distribute goods in the middle of 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 where we can distribute water. We're going to get food. I mean, it's been six days after the hurricane and it's just 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 p.m. it's no man's land and that should stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost everything.

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


CHURCH: And CNN's Sanjay Gupta is in San Juan where hospitals and medical centers are being pushed to their limits after that storm.


SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: In the middle of desperation another potential crisis may be brewing.

MARIA RODRIGUEZ, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, LOIZA HEALTHCARE CENTER: This is not small place. This is a whole island. And problem with the diesel and the gasoline we are trying to work with these people. We are trying to still providing services to these people.

GUPTA: Dr. Maria Rodriguez has worked at this community health clinic for 24 years. It's one of 70 such places al across the island who serve as the front line for preventive health care. Everything from broken bones to, counseling to pharmacy services for many Puerto Ricans. But as fuel dwindle, so will care.

RODRIGUEZ: In the way that if we continue to provide these services in this area we stop the -- that the patients go to the hospital that is already overcrowded. GUPTA: They have been told that they have just six hours of fuel

left. And at that point without any help they will have to close their doors.

RODRIGUEZ: What else we can do? The only thing we can do is go into the shelter do the medical evaluation. But we can't provide medications to those patients.

GUPTA: And that's in part you're seeing tents like this pop up in places like San Juan. You see even before Maria a third of the population here was reported to be in poor health. More likely to be older here, more likely to have chronic disease like hypertension and diabetes. And therein lies the concern. What happens to all these patients if they don't get access to care within the next several days?

Getting healthcare services up and running is key. But the only way to do that is to make sure clinics like this are powered with fuel. And right now that's a big unknown.

Domingo Cruz, director of San Jorge Pediatric Hospital knows just how critical it can be. Just two days ago.

DOMINGO CRUZ VIVALDI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAN JORGE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: The hospital was dark. And then all of a sudden as you may understand everybody was very nervous. And we started evaluating transfers, possible transfers to other hospitals.

GUPTA: They were running low in fuel. Just two days' worth. And a dozen children on ventilators.

VIVALDI: We were ready to evacuate the entire hospital if we didn't get power somehow early afternoon.

GUPTA: A neighboring hospital brought 1200 gallons of fuel. And then yesterday a U.S. army tank provided three more days' worth to keep this generator going.

VIVALDI: It was a close call. And we thank God that it worked out.

GUPTA: It's been trying professionally, as well as personally. In the midst of the storm, his mother passed away.

VIVALDI: Very hurt. The day of the storm. The day after the storm I showed up. We need to be open. We have people looking for us.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


CHURCH: So many heartbreaking stories. And if you want to learn how to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and of course around the Caribbean, just go to You can donate to one of the charities that we've vetted for you. Or you can volunteer your time.

We move to another big story now. Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner has died of natural causes at his home, the Playboy mansion. He was 91. Hefner scandalized America in 1953 when he gambled with a few thousand dollars publishing nude photos of Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in the first edition of his new magazine.

[03:09:58] Playboy eventually grew into entertainment empire of magazines nightclubs and TV shows. Known simply as Hef, he once told CNN he wanted to be remembered as someone who has changed the world in some positive way.

Well, just days ago, he tweeted on behalf of hurricane victims writing this. "Please join me in supporting ongoing efforts for all those affected by donating to one America appeal."

Well, whether he was admired as a free speech pioneer or condemned as a peddler of pornography there probably won't be another person like Hugh Hefner.

Stephanie Elam looks at his life and legacy.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: He was one of the original American playboys, a magazine tycoon who helped spark a revolution, one that challenged the nation's views on sexuality.


HUGH HEFNER, FOUNDER, PLAYBOY MAGAZINE: I have celebrated the romantic connection between the sexes and that's part of what Playboy is all about.


ELAM: Hugh M. Hefner who likes to be called Hef was born in Chicago in 1926 and raise in what he said was a strict household by conservative Protestant parents.


HEFNER: I felt there was something more to life than the world I saw around me.


ELAM: In 1953 with just $8,000 the aspiring publisher produced the very first issue of Playboy magazine on the kitchen table of his Chicago apartment. The cover featured a photo of Marilyn Monroe and sold more than 50,000 copies when it hit newsstands in December of 1953. Hefner now had the funds to finance another issue and the Playboy empire was born.


HEFNER: Well I have never really thought of Playboy as a sex magazine. What I've tried to do is create a lifestyle magazine for men.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ELAM: Hefner divorced his wife Mildred Williams in 1959 and during the early days of the magazine's success decided he would not only promote the fantasy he helped create but he would live it as well. Audiences got a taste of Hefner's good life in an early 1960s television show called Playboy's Penthouse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on in and meet some of our guests.

ELAM: Having already established himself in Chicago, Hefner made the move out west. In the early 1970s when Playboy magazine was selling seven million copies a month he made his permanent home at the now famous Playboy mansion in Los Angeles. In 1989, Hefner uttered the two words many thought he'd never say again when he married playmate of the year Kimberly Conrad.


ELAM: The couple had two children but separated in 1988. Hefner said he realized he was much happier as a bachelor.


HEFNER: I am essentially a romantic. So I think my life revolves and always has revolves around women.


ELAM: Hefner continued to live out the playboy fantasy even in his later years. Often seen in his trade mark silk pajamas surrounded by busty blonde lingerie-clad women while hosting extravagant parties with celebrity guests.

He even returned to television in 2005, this time sharing the small screen with three live-in girlfriends in the reality show The Girls Next Door.

In the late 2000s, he began an on again, off again relationship with playmate Crystal Harris, 60 years his junior. They tied the knot on New Year's Eve in 2012.

Hefner sold his beloved Playboy mansion for $100 million in 2016 on the condition that he be allowed to live there for the rest of his life. Playboy and provocateur Hugh Hefner wanted to make the world a happier, sexier place.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: What's your definition of obscenity?

HEFNER: Racism, war, bigotry. But sex itself, no. What a sad and cold word this would be if we weren't sexual beings. I mean, that's the heart of who we are.


[03:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. CNN has exclusive reporting on how Russian operative try to influence the 2016 presidential election. At the heart of the matter are ads purchased on Facebook traced back to Russian accounts. And in at least case those ads targeted people in specific locations with a message that had a chance of stirring up political divisions. These ads are now part of the ongoing federal investigation into Russian election meddling.

So there's a lot to discuss here. Let's bring in CNN's senior reporter, Dylan Byers in Washington. Dylan, great to see you. What do we know about these ads and what they were trying to accomplish?

DYLAN BYERS, SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER, CNN: Well, what we've learned so far is that one of these ads, at least one of these ads was a Black Lives Matter ad targeted towards the communities of Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore. Obviously, two hotbeds of racial tension and violent protests in the wake of police shooting of African-American men.

And what that tells us which is what other ads we're learning about also tell us is that the strategy of the Russians here was not so much to promote one candidate over another as it was to sort of amplify an atmosphere of political discord. To contribute to a sense of political and cultural a chaos in the United States as a means of undermining American democracy.

That may very well have been not just to undermine American democracy for Americans but even to undermine American democracy and western democracy in the eyes of Russians, in the eyes of people living in former Soviet bloc states.

And to that end targeting cities like Ferguson and Baltimore could have proven to be very effective not just in promoting protests but in perhaps encouraging people who believe that Black Lives Matter posed a threat to their cities.

CHURCH: But so far we know these ads weren't specifically about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, right?

BYERS: Many of them weren't. And again, we're dealing with a very small sampling. You know, when Facebook met with Congress weeks ago they only showed them a handful of the ads. Facebook has said they're going to turnover detailed records of all of those ads to Congress but they haven't done so yet.

So we're dealing with a small sample here and we can't extrapolate too much from that. I think what we can say is that the principal goal here again was sowing political discord across a range of issues. And we know now that those issues touched on immigration. They touched on gun rights. They touched on gay rights. They touched on the status of refugees.

And as the 2016 campaign developed and as that went on we may see -- you know, there may have been more ads that were specifically about the candidates, specifically about Donald Trump but we just don't know yet and we won't know until either Facebook or the Senate intelligence committee chooses to make those ads public.

CHURCH: So what do the Russians say about all this? And is there any evidence that Russian troll farms are continuing to divide Americans on social media?

BYERS: Well, the Russians of course deny all of this, and basically make us, you know, make us look out to be crazy for even thinking that there was Russian meddling in our election. But yes, this certainly could be still be going on.

In fact, the sources I've spoken with both on the Hill and at Facebook and at other social media companies have said that what we know is simply the tip of the iceberg, you know.

Oftentimes these companies don't know what they don't know. They don't know the full extent of ad buying on their forms. Clearly, if the goal was to create chaos in American politics and this goes back at least as far as the middle of 2015, and certainly or at least very likely before that, it's highly possible that this is still going on in ways that have not been identified by these social media companies.

[03:20:02] I know that is a major concern for Congress and for the Senate intelligence committee.

CHURCH: And Dylan, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg put out a statement denying President Trump's claim that Facebook has been against him. But he also wrote this. And I will quote him directly. "After the election I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it."

So, Dylan, what role is Facebook playing in the investigation into Russian meddling in the election?

BYERS: Well, they're certainly being much more cooperative with both the special counsel and that investigation, as well as with Congress. And that statement there from Mark Zuckerberg is significant because we have so many examples of him sort of dismissing the idea that misinformation or Russian meddling through Facebook could have had any impact on the election.

He effectively dismissed it outright right after the election. That was a source of frustration for lawmakers on Caitol Hill. The fact that Facebook is finally coming around, the fact that they're recognizing that the tide of public opinion, public sentiment is really starting to turn against these tech companies that' a significant development.

I think Facebook knows it and I know they have to step up to the plate here and be more cooperate with Congress and with the special counsel.

CHURCH: Dylan Byers, always great to talk with you. Thanks so much.

BYERS: Thank you.

CHURCH: To Iraq now and the country's prime minister is calling for the Kurdish independence referendum to be annulled. Kurdish officials announced 92 percent of voters backed secession for the region. And the Kurdistan regional government says the vote is a mandate for independence talks to begin. But Baghdad has ruled that out.

Our Jomana Karadsheh joins us now from Amman, Jordan. So, Jomana, Iraq calls this referendum unconstitutional, the Kurds are pushing back on that, so what happens next?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, I think that's what everyone is waiting to see, Rosemary. We heard the threats, a lot of threats whether it's coming from the central government in Baghdad or from neighboring countries like Turkey, for example, that is a main economic partner for the Kurdistan region.

But at this point in time it doesn't seem like the Kurds are backing down. Their defiance continues. And the ball really is in their court. So, we have to wait and see what their next move is going to be. Of course, we are seeing punitive measures being called for and some even going into effect that will most certainly have an impact on the Kurdistan region move to try to isolate it and really hurt them economically.

One of those measures we're seeing is, you know, after Baghdad called for the handover of control of their airports, the two main airports in the Kurdistan region Sulaymaniyah and Erbil, and Kurdish officials refused to do that.

The Iraqi civil aviation authority sent a memo out to airlines telling them that they must suspend their flights as of Friday into those two airports. And we're having one airline after the other in this region announcing that as of 6 p.m. local time on Friday they are suspending their flights into the Kurdistan region.

But a lot of concern, the real threat here, Rosemary, of course, is that threat of a military escalation especially when it comes to the disputed territories like the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

And this is something that the United States was warning about a long time before this referendum took place. A lot of concern about that. And also we've heard that from the United Kingdom, the E.U. the United Nations. A lot of concern that you could see these tensions that they could distract away from the fight against ISIS.

That battle of course not over yet. And we are seeing the signs that the focus is shifting right now and the main concern always remains that extremist groups like ISIS do exploit tensions like this. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes, that is certainly the big worry, isn't it? Jomana Karadsheh joining us there from Amman, Jordan,, where it is 10.24 in the morning. Many thanks.

Well the leaders of Turkey and Russia are set to meet in the coming hours in Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss a new plan to curb fighting in northwestern Syria. They also are likely to take up Monday's independence vote by Iraqi Kurds. Mr. Erdogan denounced the Kurdish referendum as illegal.

And our Matthew Chance is in the Turkish capital and joins us now with a preview of this important meeting. Matthew, what all is expected to come out of this meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan particularly on the issue of the Kurdish independence referendum?

MATTHEW CHANCE, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq is one of those issues which actually divides somewhat the Russians and the Turks.

[03:25:04] The Turks of course are fundamentally opposed to that vote and they've said as much threatening sanctions against the Kurdish population and the Kurdish governments of northern Iraq.

But the Russians have been much more ambiguous. They've said that they don't want to do anything that would disrupt the territorial integrity of Iraq. But also just a few days ago the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke of how Russia recognizes the aspirations for statehood of the Kurdish people in the region.

So it's one of those issues, as I say, that divides the Russians and the Turks. The Turks are obviously going to be looking to the Russians for a firmer line against the Kurds in northern Iraq. But the Russians have forged a very close economic relationship particularly in the oil and gas sector in northern Iraq.

Their state oil monopoly Rosneft has invested billions of dollars really since the past 12 months in developing oil and gas resource in that region.

And so, I think the Russians are going to be reluctant to outright condemn outright condemn this referendum. And so it may be one of those issues that the Russians and the Turks agree to disagree about.

CHURCH: And Matthew, what more are you learning about the new plan to stop the fighting in northwestern Syria? That of course will be discussed by the two leaders as well.

CHANCE: Well, we will hopefully hear a bit more about that. And I think there's a lot more -- there's probably going to be a lot more substance in the conversations that take place between President Putin and President Erdogan here in Ankara later on this evening when they meet at the presidential palace here for one of their sort of face-to- face summits.

I mean, the importance of that deal in northern Syria is that it would be for the first time that Russian and Iranian forces would work hand in hand with Turkish troops on the ground to police what the Russian called their de-escalation zones. These are -- these are these areas where local peace deals are done.

And so, it would be the first time that the Russians, the Iranians, and the Turks would work together to police that kind of zone. The de- escalation zone concept is one that's been developed by the Russians and the Iranians. The Russians say that this idea that they can control the Assad side

of things, whereas the Turks can control the sort of anti-Assad rebel side of things opens up a corridor to a final peace settlement in Syria. And so this is, you know, if it goes ahead i will be a pretty historic situation.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. Matthew Chance, bringing us that live report from Ankara in Turkey, where it is nearly 10.30 in the morning. Many thanks to you.

We'll take a very short break here. But still to come, supplies are running dangerously low in Puerto Rico. And in some places looters are only making the situation worse. We'll have more on that.


CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church. I do want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour.

Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire has died. He published the debut issue of Playboy magazine back in 1953 with a full-colored nude photo of movie sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.

He grew Playboy into a global brand and made the Playboy mansion in L.A. famous for its lavish all-night parties. Hugh Hefner was 91 years old.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is safe after the Taliban targeted his plane during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday. Mattis and NATO secretary-general had already left the airport in Kabul when insurgents fired at least 29 rocket-propelled grenades.

Japan is gearing up for its snap election after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament. The country was not expected to go to the polls for another year. But Mr. Abe is hoping to take advantage of his popularity for a stronger mandate.

Well, Puerto Rico is struggling to get the aid it needs after hurricane Maria and officials are pleading for more help. Millions are suffering without food and water. Power and cell service is also down for much of the U.S. territory. Critical supplies have arrived but the island's infrastructure is badly damaged.

So a lot of aid is stuck at a port. There's a shortage of fuel and truck drivers which is also hurting relief efforts.

And CNN has teams of journalists across Puerto Rico covering this humanitarian crisis. And that includes our Rosa Flores. She was on a flight with people evacuating the island who had to leave their loved ones behind.

ROSA FLORES, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: This flight is filled with hurricane Maria evacuees but a piece of their hearts stayed behind in Puerto Rico because on board this flight the story is not just about evacuations, it's about the separation of families. And I'll get to that part of the story in just a moment because all the people here have harrowing stories of survival in hurricane Maria's aftermath.

Vanessa here, for example, was telling us about how she had to ration her food because it was running out and she didn't have enough for all of her children. Olga over here said that she ran out of water, she ran out of food.

And then Lidia up front was telling me that she didn't eat at all yesterday but her focus was getting formula for her 1-year-old grandson.

Now the other challenge that all of these families have is that they are the wives and the children of federal agents that work for Customs a Border Protection. Now that means that their loved ones are critical to the reopening of airports to the reopening of the ports.

So these critical supply channels that feed everybody else on the island. So while they are evacuating they are separating themselves from their family members and they don't know when they are going to reunite. But they do say one thing. That they do plan to come back to Puerto Rico and to a rebuilt and a better Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.

At 21,000 feet somewhere between San Juan, Puerto Rico and Homestead, Florida, I'm Rosa Flores and this is CNN.

CHURCH: Now the humanitarian situation is bad enough of course, but Puerto Rico also has another problem. Looting.

Our Rafael Romo is in San Juan where one store owner saw his entire business ransacked after the storm.

RAFAEL ROMO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It happened just hours after the hurricane hit San Juan. Scores of people rushed into the supermarket.

FERDYSAC MARQUEZ, SUPERMARKET OWNER: They pushed the rolling door. They bring it all the way up. And once they start doing that they lifted it up to about here and then they start kicking the main doors through the windows.

ROMO: Manager and owner Ferdysac Marquez says the mob then proceeded to loot the entire store. And it was not necessarily food items they were after.

What did they take?

MARQUEZ: All the items. They took alcohol, cigarettes, the meats.

ROMO: But if I'm hungry in the middle of a storm and I'm desperate alcohol is not the first thing I'm going to take.

MARQUEZ: Absolutely. No, no, no. Definitely not. I don't think they were hungry. Obviously they weren't looking for something to provide for their family. They were probably doing so for personal benefits.

[03:34:56] ROMO: This is what the store looked like when Marquez showed up to assess the damage after the hurricane. The first thing he noticed was the vandalism to the front door and about six inches of flood water throughout the store.

And then he noticed that most cashiers have been toppled and that the ATM machine had also been vandalized. Not only was this store looted and vandalized, the manager also says that they're going to have to dispose of all of this food.

There's meat, there's ham back there. There's more food here. It's been sitting there for a week. And since they haven't had any power this food is no longer any good. The back of the store was also vandalized.

MARQUEZ: One of the things that happened was that obviously as you can see people were trying to go upstairs and get the forklift to get pallets of goods.

ROMO: How does that make you feel, not only as the manager of the store but to see fellow Puerto Ricans in a moment of difficulty when the island is being hit by a hurricane that they're trying to take advantage of the situation to do this to you?

MARQUEZ: See, I realize it's a small population of this. A lot of us in Puerto Rico we are helping each other and we're giving a hand to each other.

ROMO: For Marquez, the vandalism and looting at his supermarket is a multimillion-dollar loss. But he's not focused on that right now. He and his employees are cleaning up as fast as they can to restock the store. They know there's plenty of hungry people all around them.

Rafael Romo, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

CHURCH: Well, the U.S. Virgin Islands are also struggling to rebuild after being hit by two category 5 hurricanes in the span of about two weeks. This is an aerial look at St. Croix where much of the infrastructure is either destroyed or compromised.

So let's talk more about the situation in the U.S. Virgin Islands with Jody Goodrich. She is a resident of St. Croix and joins me now on the phone. Jody, thank you so much for talking with us at this difficult time for you.

JODY GOODRICH, ST. CROIX RESIDENT: Good evening. No problem. Glad to do it.

CHURCH: Now if you wouldn't mind describe to us what people in the U.S. Virgin Islands are having to deal with in terms of power, water, and food supplies right now.

GOODRICH: Well, specifically for St. Croix we are I would say 90 percent without power. Most of us are running on generators for those of us that have it. There's a variety of diesel gas, and propane generators. And the diesel and gas is in a fair amount of supply which we have recently learned.

You know, in the first few days nobody knew how much of anything was on the island and we were standing in line for hours for food at the grocery stores just to get your basic necessities standing in line for hours for water. And there was four-hour curfew. So it made it very hard to get things that you needed.

In the last few days things have lightened up a little bit. But we're still standing in line for places waiting.

CHURCH: Right.

GOODRICH: You know, you don't see the supplies coming in for us as much as we need them. You know, we hear the planes flying over to Puerto Rico and sending them lots of supplies. But our distribution centers are shut down every other day where people try to get water and MREs and we can't get those on a daily basis.

Luckily we have plenty of food for personally I'm OK with all of that. But I'm speaking island-wide as well.

CHURCH: Right. And you mentioned that you hear those planes flying to Puerto Rico. So, is there a sense there certainly where you are in St. Croix that you're being ignored?

GOODRICH: Absolutely. That's the -- we've always felt that way. We understand Puerto Rico is a much larger island and a lot more populated people there. But we do have our own needs here on the island and as far as, you know, there's no military presence helping. Just from simple things through the intersections where the traffic is log jammed and people aren't, you know, abiding by a typical four-way stop.

And you're sitting an hour driving from one part of the island which normally would take you five to ten minutes to just get downtown, you know, to try to get supplies that you need and you're on a limited four-hour curfew makes it very frustrating and aggravating, you know.

Again, they lifted the curfew today. It went from 11 to 6. But the first few days it was four hours which made it almost impossible to achieve what you needed to achieve. You know, the roads are still impassable with poles and lights and wires all over the place. You know, it's getting stressful for some people.

CHURCH: Yes. Certainly understandable there. How much government aid do you think has been received? Is it possible to gauge that at all?

GOODRICH: It's really not easily -- I mean, the government gets on the news every other night and gives us a report of some things of what he says is being done but what we see is limited because again you're isolated.

[03:39:57] You know, everybody is stuck in certain parts of the island and you can't see the whole island and you don't see all of the access.

I mean, I don't see blue tarps going up for people that have lost roofs and houses. I know that every other day the distribution centers are shut down. So those people that are trying to get food and water they're not able to go there and half of them don't have, you know, transportation to get there.

Some of the roads are -- most of the roads are cleared from my understanding. But it's still difficult without power everywhere and without, you know, lights and things like that. Everything takes so much longer. We're not getting family flown in and things like that with the airport still shut down. But they're using the airport to transport all these items to St. Thomas and Puerto Rico.

We haven't gotten our cargo ships arrived yet. They're all -- everything is on the way is what we keep getting told and we're now on day eight. You know, we need people on the island from the states, boots on the ground that can start putting the power lines up and cleaning up the island.

And you know, there's no buffalo water truck handing out water. There's just so many things that seem limited that is going on that shouldn't be happening at this stage.

CHURCH: Right. A cry for help there from Jody Goodrich, a resident of St. Croix there in the U.S. Virgin Island. Thank you so much for talking with us here on CNN. We appreciate it.

GOODRICH: OK. Thank you. And thank you for getting the word out. Hopefully they'll be here quick soon.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Thank you.

GOODRICH: Good night.

CHURCH: The devastation and the frustration so extensive there. We're going to take a very short break. But still to come, President Trump is making some drastic cuts to the number of refugees allowed in the United States. Which region of the world gets the most slots? That's up next on CNN Newsroom.


CHURCH: So far it has been a week of political setbacks for President Trump. The Senate candidate he backed in Alabama's republican primary lost. Sources say Mr. Trump is furious with aides and the Senate majority leader for urging him to support Luther Strange. The president is now turning to his tax reform initiative after republicans once again failed to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Despite their defeat President Trump insists he has the votes to pass a healthcare bill.


TRUMP: We have the votes on Graham-Cassidy. But with the rules of reconciliation we're up against a deadline on Friday, two days. That's just two days.


CHURCH: The president though didn't explain where those votes are coming from. Republican senators pulled the bill on Tuesday because they didn't have enough support to get it passed.

Well, Mr. Trump is not letting up in his criticism of athletes who protest the national anthem. He says if they want to make a statement they should find a better place to do it.


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're doing. And in my opinion the NFL has to change or you know what's going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell.


[03:45:08] CHURCH: NFL players got a chance to answer question about the protest during media day on Wednesday and it's clear many of them think President Trump has not handled the situation well.


RICHARD SHERMAN, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS CORNERBACK: Our president gets into the - we and them kind of conversations. And you know, sometimes you wonder who's we and who's them. Because this time he was saying it in -- he was saying it in regards to NFL players. Which is, which is, you know always -- you can always take it whatever way you want to. But I think it's -- I think when you're the president of the United States and you're talking about fellow Americans you always have to say we, or you become divisive.

If you're the president of the United States and you say we, them, and you're talking about Americans, it's divisive. And then when your followers and your supporters continue to press that rhetoric to press that message and then say that other people are being divisive because they react to his statements then you get the problems that we have today and you get people that need to make a stand and need to protest and that's what you've seen.


CHURCH: And you can join Anderson Cooper for an AC360 town hall special Patriotism, the players and the president. It will re-air on Thursday at 9 p.m. in Hong Kong. That's 2 p.m. in London only on CNN.

The Trump administration is dramatically scaling back refugee admission next year capping resettlement at 45,000. That's less than half of what former President Barack Obama proposed for the current fiscal year. Nineteen thousand will be admitted from Africa. That's the most for any region, 17,500 will be allowed from the near east and South Asia that includes most Middle Eastern countries.

Donald Trump campaigned forcefully on the issue painting refugees as a threat to U.S. security.


TRUMP: Then you see what's going on in Germany where they're having tremendous problems with what's happening with their women with these people and what's happening -- you're seeing you're reading the stories. I hate to even repeat what's going on.

So now they want to talk about 200,000. I'm looking at all these men. We're going to bring them into our country where we know nothing about them. They're not documented. They can't give you papers. They don't know -- we know nothing. This could be one of the great Trojan horses. This could make the Trojan horse look like peanuts.


CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about this is Brian Bollinger. He is the executive director of the non-profit group Friends of Refugees. And it is based in Clarkston, Georgia where many refugees have been resettled. This group helps refugees become self-sufficient and integrated into the community. Brian, thank you so much for coming in.


CHURCH: So, of course, the U.S. president campaigned often about refugees and some have said that he demonized them. So how do you feel about this new plan to dramatically scale back refugee admissions next year?

BOLLINGER: Well, I feel like it is stunningly misplaced. Refugees and refugee resettlement has never been a partisan issue. Democrats, republicans, conservatives, progressives, whoever you ask down through the years have always been overwhelmingly supportive of refugee resettlement as a program that works, a format of immigration that works.

Refugee resettlement isn't broken. It's a blueprint for functioning immigration. Refugee resettlement has welcomed its highest numbers under conservative administrations. Under Reagan and under Bush. We saw historic levels.

But I think more than anything what strikes me as so unusual is to cut the program to its lowest level in history at the very moment in history where more families are being forced to flee by violence and more than ever before.

CHURCH: But clearly Mr. Trump and his administration don't share your views. So how would you convince him that more refugees rather than fewer is better for the country? What would you say?

BOLLINGER: I think the first and the most important thing to say to the administration would be to stick to the numbers. The U.S. has welcomed three million refugees through the modern refugee resettlement process since 1980. And never has a -- one of -- none of the three million refugees that we have welcomed since 1980 has ever taken the life of an American on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack. It never happened.

[03:49:57] There's no format of immigration that can make a security claim like the refugee resettlement system. So just the sheer numbers the safety of the system and the fact that republicans and democrats together have created a vetting process that's more secure than any immigration vetting system on earth. And the refugee resettlement program is the only format of immigration that can make those kinds of security claims through history.

CHURCH: But that's exactly the argument that Mr. Trump has used against the whole concept of bringing in refugees, isn't l? He has said that some of them are impossible to vet and that they pose a security risk and he uses examples of crimes committed in Europe to back up his case. So what would you say to that argument?

BOLLINGER: I think that that argument is a really unfortunate false equivalency. Migrants and illegal immigrants, et cetera, are not refugees. The refugees that we welcome in the United States have undergone an extraordinary process of vetting that does not let us down. It doesn't create an unsafe situation.

The migrants who have fled into Europe have not gone through that process. And I think more to the point, a migrant who flees across the Mediterranean and into say, Greece and later on into say, Germany, that individual has foregone the right to ever be eligible for the U.S. refugee resettlement system.

So the security situations that the Europeans are seeing they're not even -- they're not even on deck to be a challenge for us.

CHURCH: We could talk about this all day. I do want to before you go get probably your most inspiring story of a refugee you've worked with.


CHURCH: That's gone and been resettled.


CHURCH: And gone to live a successful life.

BOLLINGER: Probably the most inspiring stories that I think of tend to be of refugee neighbors I've known over the last 10 years in Clarkson who have either started a business or taken a challenging job and turned it into a future for their family.

For example, when my wife and I bought our first home in Clarkston the year before last, the house next door to us was empty and it was eventually bought by a refugee family from Burma. And I was really excited to realize that it was a family we had served as clients of ours when we worked for world relief.

And the father of the family is still working in the same poultry business where I got him a job eight years ago. But he has worked his way up to where he is now a supervisor, managing multiple lines and he's come to a position where in just eight years he has had good credit and worked hard and purchased a home, and his kids are on their way to college. And I've just seen that my neighbor as we get out and share life

together has emblemized to me the reality that blessings and not burdens are what we get, that refugees are blessings not burdens. They help us bake a bigger pie. They don't take a bigger slice of it. And they certainly aren't a security risk.

CHURCH: Good to end on a positive note like that. Brian Bollinger, thank you so much. Pleasure to have you in.

BOLLINGER: A pleasure to be here.

CHURCH: And still to come, reaction to a new direction for Saudi women. They will soon be allowed to legally get behind the wheel. We brought it to you yesterday. We'll have more on that.


[03:55:01] CHURCH: Women in Saudi Arabia are celebrating a royal decree that will let them drive legally next year. The milestone announced earlier this week brings Saudi Arabia on course with the rest of the world.

Our Jeanne Moos is gauging reaction.

JEANNE MOOS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Thelma and Louise your next desert could 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 ladies only started their engines to protest and drive around illegally. As this activist author did in 2011 she got arrested and charged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The crimes driving with female.

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

Some Saudi women were downright gleeful. Tweeted one, "Started from the bottom in a bumper car, now we're here in real one." Women should be able to get driver's licenses starting next summer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't wait till June.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have (Inaudible) from excitement. MOOS: some non-Saudis were sarcastic. "Wow. Saudi Arabia trying to

catch up with the world. One century at a time, guys."

But singer Rihanna Instagrammed 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 travel.

Figures Saudi women would finally get the right to drive just when cars are about to become self-driving. Time to throw this joke to history dump read one tweet featuring a Thelma and Louise cartoon. It was only eight minutes says the husband. They edited out all scenes of women driving answers the wife. Time for that ban on women driving to be driven right off a cliff.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: All right. And thanks so much for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. The news continues with Hannah Vaughan Jones in London. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.