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Spain Begins to Impose Direct Rule on Catalonia; White House Not Commenting on Mueller Indictment; Contaminated Water a Danger for Puerto Ricans; Mother Faces Prison for Sending Money to Radicalized Son; The American Opioid Crisis; Houston Cop Saves Lives While Fighting for His Own; Inside Russia's Most Controversial Film. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired October 29, 2017 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Washington braces for arrests, expected as soon as Monday, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Catalonia's ousted president calls for a peaceful opposition as Madrid takes direct control of the region.

ALLEN (voice-over): And how a mother's love for her jihadist son now has her facing a prison sentence.

HOWELL (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: The special investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia steps into a new phase this week, the reality here, someone will be arrested.

ALLEN: CNN was first to report that a grand jury had charged someone, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Shimon Prokupecz helped break the story. He talked earlier about what comes next.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: The charges remain sealed and still no word on who is facing charges and what the charges are. We do hope that later today we may get some word on whether anyone has been asked to surrender.

All indications are that, at some point on Monday, the indictment will be unsealed and we'll learn what the charges are. Attorneys representing some of the people who are under investigation, that we have talked to so far, have not been asked to have their clients surrender.

For now, all this, still a mystery that will hopefully get answered sometime on Monday.


HOWELL: Shimon Prokupecz there.

So even though Mueller's investigation has cast a shadow on the White House for months, the Trump administration has remained quiet on these first indictments so far.

ALLEN: And instead Trump and his team have been going after one of their favorite targets, Hillary Clinton. Boris Sanchez takes a look at the accusations against the president's former rival.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House is not commenting on the latest news coming from Robert Mueller's probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

However, they are focusing a lot of their energy on a former political opponent of the president's, Hillary Clinton. Look at the tweets September sent out by Sarah Sanders on Saturday.

She writes, quote, "Clinton spokesman just said he's damn glad Clinton campaign colluded with Russia to spread disinformation about the president and influence election."

She goes on, "The evidence Clinton campaign, DNC and Russia colluded to influence the election is indisputable."

That "damn glad" reference in quotations, speaking about Brian Fallon, who said that he was happy that the Clinton campaign solicited the opposition research provided by Fusion GPS during the campaign; however, to call it collusion definitely goes a step further.

Beyond that, earlier this week, House Republicans announced they were launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the sale of a uranium mining company to Russia.

The president has alleged that the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, got bribes from Russians in exchange for a favorable uranium deal.

And beyond that, CNN has learned that the White House has pressed staffers to work with the Department of Justice to lift a gag order on a former FBI informant, that has information on that sale in order for him to testify during the course of the investigation.

Beyond all of that, the president is also pushing the State Department to release e-mails that it still has pertaining to Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state.

So while the White House, you would imagine, would be on the defensive, as news that charges stemming from Robert Mueller's investigation are imminent, they're very much on the offensive on an opponent of the president that he defeated about 12 months ago -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


ALLEN: Let's talk more about what we expect from this investigation this week. We're joined by Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics.

Brian, thank you for being with us. First of all, Monday could be a pivotal day in the investigation.

What does this indicate that an indictment may be handed down?

BRIAN KLAAS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: This is a very big deal. We have about a year past the election; now we are at a milestone moment in this investigation, where somebody will be arrested.

This is very bad news for the White House, because a Trump affiliate almost certainly will be the person arrested. This is also making clear that the Mueller investigation is going to go on for a long time.

This is the beginning, this is not the end; they're not wrapping up, they're only launching these indictments. So we may expect more of them to come.

And it is also something where we can expect some reckless tweets from the president, potentially next week, because this past week --


KLAAS: -- there was a ramping-up of attacks on Hillary Clinton in tandem with the fact that all of this is happening behind the scenes.

This pattern of lashing out is something that we should be very careful about, because it comes from the President of the United States. He's going to be on a trip to Asia soon. This may be as his presidency is imperiled by impending investigations and indictments.

So it is a pivotal moment for the Mueller investigation and we should expect to see much more of this in the months ahead.

ALLEN: And also, President Trump repeatedly said this is a witch- hunt, there is nothing here but his own top advisers have acknowledged there was Russian meddling in the election. So it will be interesting to see how the president comes out on the same page this week with this revelation.

But then again, he doesn't seem to always care to be too concerned with the fact that he's not always on the same page with his team.

What do you think?

KLAAS: The witch hunt parallel is an interesting one. It is exactly what Nixon said when he was under investigation. That turned out not to be a witch hunt. This one has turned out not to be a witch hunt. You don't indict people over a witch hunt. You indict people because you have evidence to suggest that they committed a crime.

Let's look at the bigger picture. The intelligence community agreed that Russia meddled in our election in an effort to help elect Donald Trump. We have another election in 12 months. The Trump administration has done the minimal amount to stop any future meddling.

The future of American democracy is at stake. If this investigation does not go to its logical conclusion, then we have a real problem where there will be no deterrence to other actors to try to interfere in American democracy.

It is a very serious problem because interfering in elections is a metathreat. It affects every other decision that the American government takes. So this is, you know, not a witch hunt. This is a serious issue for American democracy.

And trying to dredge up past issues about Hillary Clinton as a distraction technique only threatens our democracy further by distracting people who really should be focused on the fact that we have a president, who is potentially imperiled, less than a year into the job and, potentially, having his affiliates get arrested in handcuffs.

This is not a joke, not a witch hunt, not some sort of partisan thing, it is a genuine investigation into criminal wrongdoing.

ALLEN: We know the president is set to travel to Asia at a time, very tense time, with North Korea.

What does it say about our relationship, the United States relationship with Russia, that North Korea is on the table, very, very tense in that region?

We still have this lingering Russia issue, as you say, another election is coming forward and we really still don't have any solid positive relations with Russia.

KLAAS: That's true. And I think the one thing that we need to be really thinking of carefully is why has the Trump administration not executed the sanctions, that were passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in Congress with a deadline that has now passed?

Why have they not done that?

I'll leave that answer up to viewers to decide themselves but I think there is fair amount of evidence that this investigation is causing the Trump administration considerable worry and also considerable worry about a compromised relationship with Russia. They need to enforce those sanctions. If they do not do so, there is

no deterrent effect for Russia to do exactly what it did last time again in 2018. And if we don't want our democracy to become the plaything of autocrats abroad, we need to send a very clear message as a country that this will not be tolerated and there will be consequences to anyone who cyber attacks Americans and American democracy.

ALLEN: You're right. There is still so much unknown about our election process and how secure and safe is it.

Brian Klaas for us, London School of Economics, thank you, Brian.

KLAAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: Moving on to Spain, both government and Catalan leaders are calling for calm at a time when tensions are very high in that nation, just in a few hours' time, pro-unity demonstrations will take place in Barcelona. It is expect there. This even though Spain's central government says Catalonia's bid for independence is now over.

ALLEN: Madrid has imposed direct rule on the region and dismantled its parliament after they voted overwhelmingly for independence on Friday. Spain's deputy prime minister is now in charge.

But dismissed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is urging Catalans to use democratic opposition to advance their cause with new elections scheduled for December.

HOWELL: Live in Barcelona, CNN's Erin McLaughlin following the story for us at this hour.

Erin, great to have you with us. There is a pro-unity rally set to happen in the coming hours that, of course, we'll follow.

But what can be expected as we see Madrid continue to move to take over powers within that region?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. We'll have to wait and see what comes out of Madrid today. All eyes at the moment are on that pro-unity rally that you just mentioned, expected in the next couple of hours here in Barcelona.


MCLAUGHLIN: It is potentially significant given that that is an anti- independence rally, essentially in protest of what the Catalan government has just done, their declaration of independence.

We'll be looking very closely to see how many people turn out for that demonstration, considering Catalonia is deeply divided on the subject of independence, especially when you consider that the lawmakers who passed the law, declaring independence in Catalonia, actually only represent around 48 percent of the electorate.

So they don't have a majority in terms of the vote itself, the number of people that they were representing, when they voted to declare independence in Catalonia. We'll have to look to see how many people take to the streets in Barcelona today in protest of that.

The other thing we're going to be looking at in terms of the pro-unity march is how the Mossos, the local police respond, considering that the Mossos, we understand, are also deeply divided on the subject of independence.

We obtained copies of a number of internal letters that went out yesterday to the police officers, calling on them to remain objective, calling on them to do their jobs with respect to peaceful demonstrations, trying to maintain the peace and respect Catalan institutions.

It will be very critical to see how they respond, especially when you consider that their police chief, Joseph Trapero (ph), was sacked yesterday by Madrid.

HOWELL: Erin, you've been covering this for some time. There are two storylines that seem quite at odds with each other. Let's talk about the dismissed president there of Catalonia, he's urging people to protest in a legal and free way.

But as far as he's concerned, a Spanish state prosecutor announced he plans to charge -- charges of rebellion against Mr. Puigdemont for declaring independence; at the same time, we're hearing from a central government spokesperson, saying Mr. Puigdemont is welcome to continue his political career in the new election.

So what is the reaction to what seemed to be a mixed message about his future?

MCLAUGHLIN: That was interesting to hear from the government spokesperson out of Madrid yesterday, say that the now-dismissed president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, is welcome to run in the election.

It is really not up to the government to decide whether or not Puigdemont's qualified to run in the election, given everything that happened, given that Madrid is currently preparing charges of rebellion for Puigdemont as well as his government, rebellion carrying a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

But it is in Madrid's interest to try and lend some legitimacy to the elections that they're now scheduled for December 21st. They want pro-independence parties to take part in the elections because they want them to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Catalan people.

At the same time, though, it does seem very unlikely that the now- dismissed president Puigdemont will actually run in those elections, given that yesterday he said that he's intent on continuing to build a new country -- George.

HOWELL: A lot happening. Erin McLaughlin, live for us in Barcelona, thank you, Erin. Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, the crisis in Puerto Rico continues and there is a potentially fatal threat lurking in the water. And some Puerto Ricans, they're relying on for survival.

ALLEN: Also ahead, sentenced to prison for sending money to her son. We'll hear the mother's story.






ALLEN: In Puerto Rico, millions of people are still struggling to get back to a normal life after Hurricane Maria devastated the island more than a month ago. At least 51 people have died in the storm and since the storm.

HOWELL: In the meantime, that U.S. territory is still in a state of crisis. Power is down for 70 percent of the island. Only 41 percent of cell towers are operational and 20 percent of Puerto Ricans still don't have access to clean water.

ALLEN: Hundreds of thousands of those people who can't access clean water have been desperately turning to contaminated sources.

HOWELL: Some have died as a result of that, in what officials are treating as a health emergency. CNN's Martin Savidge brings us this report.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jorge Antonio Sanyet struggles to understand how his father died two weeks after the hurricane, describing the symptoms that came on so suddenly.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Nausea, stomach pains, headaches and diarrhea. The doctor diagnosed the flu and sent the man home, where he only got worse.

SAVIDGE: So the family brought him to this regional hospital where unfortunately he died. And it was only then they learned what had made him so sick. Leptospirosis.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): I asked Jorge if he knew about it.

"No, I have never heard of it before," he tells me.

The source is bacteria and animal urine, making its way into rivers and lakes especially after flooding. Hurricane Maria triggered massive flooding while knocking out fresh water to many on the island. In desperation, Puerto Ricans have been turning to potentially contaminated rivers and waterways to wash, even to drink.

The Cruz family still has no water at their Canovanas home, so every other week they've been coming to the river. They do laundry and the children play.

I asked Jose if he had any fear about the water for his family. His answer was simple.




SAVIDGE: But in the town of Juncos, Maria Flores is worried. It's why every day she, along with her daughter and grandchildren, come to town and filled plastic jugs at the community well.

"We're in desperate need of it," she says. "I live on the second floor and I carry the containers with water every day. It is exhausting."

As the number of confirmed and suspected cases of Leptospirosis have grown, the government is trying to keep public fear in check, describing the situation as neither an epidemic nor a confirmed outbreak. But they are treating it as a health emergency.

Puerto Ricans have endured a long list of sufferings in the aftermath of Maria.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Now comes another potentially fatal threat lurking in the very water some of them relying on just to survive -- Martin Savidge, CNN.


HOWELL: Martin, thanks for the report.

Moving on to Somalia, that nation's capital came under attack again, just two weeks after the deadliest car bombings in the country's modern history. At least 19 people were killed on Saturday in Mogadishu. Two car bombs went off near the presidential palace and gunmen stormed a nearby hotel.

ALLEN: Officials say a former lawmaker and at least one police officer are among the dead. The terror group Al-Shabaab claims responsibility. Somalia is still mourning at least 277 people killed in those bombings two weeks ago.

HOWELL: This is the dilemma facing many parents whose sons and daughters join ISIS, first they lose their children to the terror group and then they are forced to turn on them when they reach out for help.

ALLEN: CNN's Melissa Bell sits down with the French mother whose son died while fighting for ISIS in Syria. She was sentenced to prison because she sent money to her son.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few photographs are all that Nathalie Haddadi has left.


Nathalie Haddadi would never have believed that her son, Belabbas, whose innocent face stares back from the photos, would decide that his destiny was jihad. The first signs came after a trip to see his father in Algeria, then, with money sent to him by his mother, Nathalie, a holiday he claimed to be on in Malaysia.

A few months later, he called from the self-proclaimed caliphate of ISIS.

HADDADI: (Speaking French).

BELL (voice-over): Several weeks later, another phone call came, the one that every mother dreads.

HADDADI: (Speaking French).

BELL (voice-over): What followed for Nathalie was not a period of quiet mourning but a trial. In September, she was sentenced to two years in jail for having sent her son money while he was in Malaysia.

Nathalie says her son was the victim of brainwashing and that she is now the victim of a witch hunt by a state that is powerless to pursue the jihadists themselves.

In all, French authorities believe there are around 500 French citizens currently in ISIS territory, who are either jihadists or the children of jihadists, men, women and children whose numbers have fallen as they have fallen victim to the war but whose families are now facing prosecution in cases like Nathalie's.

Among those still in ISIS territory, Sylvie's daughter and three small grandchildren. She says her family has been abandoned by French authorities; help lines provided by the government have proven useless and no one seems prepared to help, she says. CNN reached out to the France's interior ministry but got no response.

SYLVIE, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER: "I have more fear than hope but I try to keep faith nonetheless. Not helping them is sentencing them to death without a trial. It is true. And, yes, I'd give money, I'd give my life, yes, of course. It is the same for every mother.

"When we mothers think about it, we get panic attacks. So we push those thoughts away because it is unbearable. It is just unbearable." BELL (voice-over): Back in Strasburg, Nathalie is waiting for the result of her appeal, alone. Her only support the informal networks that have been created with other mothers of jihadists. They are united, she says, in their grief and in their understanding of the strongest of bonds.

HADDADI: (Speaking French).

BELL (voice-over): -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


ALLEN: All around tragedy.

The opioid crisis in the U.S. is killing thousands of people, destroying potential, tearing families apart.


ALLEN (voice-over): Next, you'll hear from opioid addicts, how it all started for them.

ALLEN: Plus, a plant native to Southeast Asia that could help opioid addicts -- next. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains how. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: Thank you for being here. I'm Natalie Allen. Our headlines this hour.



ALLEN: The opioid epidemic in the U.S. is described as the worst drug crisis this country has ever seen. Opioid overdoses may be killing more than 100 people each day in the United States.

HOWELL: Some are as young as 18-year-old Dustin and 19-year-old Joseph. They were childhood friends, they lived in the same community here in the U.S. state of Georgia. They died of an overdose earlier this year. Their potential, now lost.

ALLEN: The problem is so bad, President Trump declared a public health emergency this week. Experts say it is a positive start, long overdue, but it is not as helpful as declaring a national emergency, which would make new funding available.

During the announcement, Mr. Trump talked about how addiction hit home for him through his late brother, Fred.


TRUMP: I had a brother, Fred. Great guy, best-looking guy, best personality -- much better than mine.


But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me, "Don't drink. Don't drink."

He was substantially older and I listened to him and I respected -- but he would constantly tell me, "Don't drink."

He'd also add, "Don't smoke." But he would say it over and over and over again.

And to this day, I've never had a drink.


HOWELL: U.S. president Donald Trump there.

Opioid addictions can be found in any city or town. But now we want to show you how the opioid epidemic is unfolding near the city of Boston.

ALLEN: We want to warn you, this may be tough to watch. Gary Tuchman's report has images of drug use but we think it is important to show you that some people start their addiction to opioids after taking legally prescribed painkillers.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To most people this is a neighborhood south of downtown Boston. To others it's a living hell.

BILLY, OPIOID ADDICT: I'm a junky. I've been shooting heroin for 16 years. I'm homeless. I live on the sidewalk. And this is my life.

MEGAN, OPIOID ADDICT: You know I didn't grow up thinking I was going to be a heroin addict. This isn't exactly what I wanted to be.

TUCHMAN: What are your hopes and dreams?

MEGAN: To get sober. To have a family. At one point that I was going to and I lost the love of my life. We both overdosed and when I woke up he was dead.

TUCHMAN: Billy is 31 years old. He has a 5-year-old son. He want to be a tattoo artist someday. But even while we talked, he was looking for a vain.

It's impossible for you to stop shooting the heroin while we talk? That's what I'm wondering your feel such a strong urge you can't stop while we talk?

BILLY: Yes, yes. There's nothing that would stop me and that's how bad it gets.

TUCHMAN: Megan also lives on the streets on the sidewalks. You are about to reach your 30th birthday. And how long have you been addicted to heroin?

MEGAN: Since 19.

TUCHMAN: How did you start the first time?

MEGAN: It was pills and then pills became expensive, hard to get. And heroin is just extremely easy to get and a lot cheaper.

TUCHMAN: Like Megan the gateway to heroin for Billy was also pain pills. He was 13 years old when he started.

BILLY: I was already using prescription pills. I like the way that felt. I found that heroin was cheaper than pills. And it was more intense. So I began sniffing heroin. And then I found out shooting it was the next step from there. And I would save money. And the first time I shot it I fell in love with it. The only way I can explain it is I thank God.

TUCHMAN: Billy and Megan are joined in their opioid devotion with scores of other people who gather on the street. It happens to be near a hospital, methadone clinics and shelters, people who want to help. Forty miles up the road in a small city of Boston, Massachusetts,

police will not arrest if you come to the police station with opioid looking for help. A strategy of help not handcuffs started here and spread throughout the country. But after a much publicized and encouraging start, the police chief here is facing a stark reality. Things are not getting better.

CHIEF JOHN MCCARTHY, GLOUCESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have seen an increase in fentanyl. Fentanyl is a drug that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin.

TUCHMAN: Like heroin fentanyl is an opioid. Even a tiny dose of it can be lethal. Craig uses fentanyl. Like everyone we met on the street, he wants to stop but says he can't.

CRAIG, OPIOID ADDICT: I'm addicted to opiates.


TUCHMAN: So what do you do here in the street?

What kind of opiates?

CRAIG: Well, the thing is all the opiates right now is fentanyl, so everybody is dying. TUCHMAN: It's about to start pouring here in Boston. These people who can't live without their pills and their needles will be sleeping in dirt that will turn into mud.

Are you afraid you are going to die from this?

BILLY: I know I'm going to die from this.

TUCHMAN: Are you afraid you're going to die from this?

MEGAN: Not really afraid. And honestly sometimes it does just seem easier.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Boston.


ALLEN: She's not very afraid but her voice shaking when she said that.

Some experts say controlling the opioid epidemic requires reforming how the U.S. medical system deals with people in severe physical pain.

HOWELL: CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reports on an herb which could help people in pain, it could help those addicted.


PATRICIA SLEVIN, FORMER OPIATE USER: Everything hurts, you're sick, you're nauseous, throwing up, diarrhea. Your will to live is gone.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Withdrawal from opiate drugs. Many will tell you that you continue to use because after a while it's no longer about getting high. It's to chase away the feeling you're about to die.

For Patricia Slevin, it all started four years ago with abdominal pain and a prescription for Dilaudid. It was the first time in her life she had ever taken an opiate.

SLEVIN: They upped the dose and it just kept to the point where I was taking a very high dose of pain meds. I had to get on pain management.

LISA VINSON, FORMER OPIATE USER: Every month they say how are you and I say, well, it's not really helping as much. I'm still in a lot of pain. OK. We'll add this to it, this pill and then this patch.

GUPTA: Lisa Vinson, Patricia's younger sister, also had abdominal pain. Over the past 10 years she's had five operations including a hysterectomy and yes, she also had lots and lots of narcotics.

VINSON: I was torn between not being able to care for my family or, OK, I can take care of them if I just take some more pills. GUPTA: Within months two sisters, Lisa and Patricia, were both addicted to opioid painkillers. But things would soon turn even more desperate for Patricia.

SLEVIN: Every time they would give me more my body just get immune to it. If I didn't have it I would get sick, sick, real sick.

GUPTA (on camera): So what did you do?

SLEVIN: There was a guy that I worked with, his wife had Dilaudid but she didn't like them and she didn't take them so he would sell me what she had so that I ran out then I still have some.

GUPTA (voice-over): But one day that same guy didn't have any pills and offered up a cheaper alternative, heroin.

SLEVIN: And the rest, as they say, is history. It just went downhill from there.

VINSON: She called asking for money for more heroin and I told her I will not send you money for drugs. I will not. But I will buy you kratom.

GUPTA: Kratom. Around the world, kratom, an herb, has been used for centuries to help people manage pain, but also for the withdrawal from opium. Lisa knew from personal experience.

VINSON: The reason I started taking it was because I didn't want to withdraw. I had no idea that it was going to help me with the pain like it did.

CHRISTOPHER MCCURDY, MEDICINAL CHEMIST: We definitely believe that this could be a solution to or part of a solution to the opioid crisis that we're currently in.

GUPTA: Christopher McCurdy is a medicinal chemist. He's also one of just a handful of scientists in America studying the Southeast Asia plant.

MCCURDY: I don't see anything that rivals or even comes close to the ability for this plant to serve as a potential treatment.

GUPTA: And yet, in the U.S., it is banned in six states and the DEA considers it a drug of concern over worries of potential addiction and even some reported deaths. According to McCurdy, that concern is because kratom is not regulated and has been mixed with other drugs.

MCCURDY: Definitely there needs to be regulatory measures put into place with this plant material, but there is a huge wealth of anecdotal evidence out there and some scientific that there is definite medical potential for this plant.

GUPTA: For something so promising, you may be wondering why others including big companies haven't investigated it. Part of the problem, it is a plant and that means no one can patent it.

MCCURDY: There is no financial incentive for any drug company to really pursue developing this into a drug.

GUPTA (on camera): How does the future look for you now, you, your family? All your teenage kids that you have.

VINSON: Right. It looks beautiful. I have hope.


GUPTA: How confident are you that you won't go back to heroin?

SLEVIN: Never fully confident. Never fully confident.

GUPTA: Right.

SLEVIN: It's a powerful -- it's a powerful drug, but I think as long as I have kratom, as long as I can get it, me, personally, I'll never go back.

GUPTA: So you may be watching that and saying, that looks like it's too good to be true, that a plant, that an herb could actually have such an impact. Well, the truth is that it's been used for hundreds of years in other countries. It is starting to get more interest from the scientific community here. But there are still a lot of tests that it needs to be done.

And if you buy kratom, you've got to make sure of a lot of things right now because it's unregulated. You've got to make sure that what you're getting is kratom, you've got to make sure that you're getting the right dose and you've got to make sure that it's not mixed with something else.

So there are some significant caveats here still. But this is one of the possible angles, one of the possible options and alternatives to try to make a dent in this opioid crisis.


HOWELL: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting there.

Still ahead, a Houston police officer saving lives during Hurricane Harvey and also fighting a death-defying battle of his own at the same time.




HOWELL: Investigators have released new audio from the October 1st massacre that took place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ALLEN: In it, you hear the moment hotel security guard Jesus Campos radioed to dispatch that shots had been fired from inside a room at the Mandalay Bay hotel. Campos would later be shot in the leg by Stephen Paddock as he approached the gunman's room. Here is his call over his radio.


JESUS CAMPOS, SECURITY GUARD: (INAUDIBLE). 3-1-2. Hey, there are shots in 32-1-3-5.

HOWELL (voice-over): The clip has no time stamp, so it won't yield any clues about the timeline of that rampage; 58 people were killed at a concert outside that hotel.

ALLEN: Often, we take their quiet heroism for granted but first responders doing their jobs save lives.

HOWELL: During Hurricane Harvey, one of Houston's finest was saving lives while battling his own situation, stage 4 cancer. Stephanie Elam has his story.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Hurricane Harvey dropped a deluge of water of Houston --

OFFICER NORBERT RAMON, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: And the rain just kept coming down. I mean coming down.

ELAM: Police Officer Norbert Ramon headed to the only station he could get to, Lake Patrol right on Lake Houston.

N. RAMON: Just seemed like apocalypse. I mean it just -- it was unreal.

ELAM: With floodwaters engulfing neighborhoods, Lake Patrol took to its boats, skirting trees, bridges and sunken cars to whisk people to safety.

N. RAMON: They wanted to bring everything with them, you know and you can only tell them to bring so much.

ELAM: Working 12-hour shifts, Officer Ramon was in and out of water helping to rescue people.

N. RAMON: You know what sticks in my head is those children. I mean you'd see different emotions.

ELAM (on camera): How many people do you think you helped rescue?

N. RAMON: God, I don't know, 200, 300 easily.

SGT. EPI GARZA, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: He never showed no signs of him having anything wrong with him.

ELAM (voice-over): What's wrong with Officer Ramon is stage four colon cancer, which has spread to his liver and lungs. Diagnosed in March 2016, Ramon gets chemotherapy every two weeks, a constant reminder of his battle. N. RAMON: I'm out there in the street, then I've got to leave half a day to, you know, go out there and do that. And it's just -- as long as I'm with these guys, you know, they keep me going, you know.

OFFICER ALVIN STEELMAN, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: My respect level for him is beyond explanation.

ELAM: Teamed up for boat rescues, Alvin Steelman had no clue about Ramon's health crisis until after the water receded.

STEELMAN: He's not looking for sympathy. He just wants to be part of the team. And he was. He did everything everyone else did.

GARZA: For three days of his life, he was in a world where he didn't have to think about it. He was really happy helping people.

ELAM: In fact, Ramon was in no pain. CINDY RAMON, OFFICER RAMON'S WIFE: He's a police officer first and then it's cancer.

ELAM: His wife of 13 years, however, was concerned. He sent her this picture while on the murky water to let her know he was all right.

C. RAMON: I was worried about him because energy wise I didn't know how it would affect him. But at the same token, I knew there's nothing I could say or do that was going to hold him back.

N. RAMON: I just wanted to go out there and do it like -- like I don't even have it.

ELAM: A man rescuing others from the brink, while in a battle for his own life -- Stephanie Elam, CNN, Houston.


ALLEN: We wish him well, of course.

Houston got ravaged by a storm; Puerto Rico, we have been talking about ravaged by a storm. There is another one coming but, first of all, people in New York might be thinking about the storm that hit them many years ago. They may soon have reason to reflect on Hurricane Sandy from this time, five years ago.



ALLEN: Coming up here, we'll take you to Russia, where there are protests and threats of violence, all over a film, one about a ballerina and the last Russian czar, it is sparking controversy.





ALLEN: In Russia, some topics are so taboo, to touch them is an insult to some religious groups.

HOWELL: So there is a new film featuring the last czar and his love life and it is stirring up passions but not necessarily in a good way. Robyn Curnow has more.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's an outcry in Russia over the release of a controversial film. Groups of religious protesters stand outside movie theaters, holding crucifixes and religious icons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This movie will bring our country to decay more and more and our families will die because of this movie. And, tomorrow, we will wake up in a very different country.

CURNOW (voice-over): "Matilda" portrays a premarital affair between the future czar and a prima ballerina. Nicholas was the last emperor to rule Russia.


CURNOW (voice-over): He and his family were brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Threats and even several arson attacks have preceded the movie's debut. Molotov cocktails were thrown into the movie director's office and, in another incident, under his lawyer's car.

Several actors in "Matilda" have received death threats and missed the premiere.

ALEXEI UCHITEL, DIRECTOR OF "MATILDA" (through translator): They all loved our movie absolutely, sincerely. Just gave it their hearts and souls, but were afraid to come here, which I think is a great shame.

CURNOW: Most of the blowback has come from Russian Orthodox Christians, who canonized Nicholas in 2000. They consider the salacious aspects of the film offensive and antireligious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The czar and his family are the saints celebrated by the holy (INAUDIBLE) and they should be treated with care and respect.

This film treats the czar with disrespect. It is insulting.

CURNOW: The Russian Orthodox Church wields a great amount of power in a country home to many Orthodox Christians. The church is thought to have deep ties to the government and its influence in Russia is widespread.

The movie has been banned from several theaters and those playing it have heightened their security. But even if the controversy escalates, there are those who see the film as a work of art.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The film is excellent. The film is beautiful. The film is about history. Our history. About great history.


ALLEN: And that is our first hour. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell. The news continues here on CNN right after the break.