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Dreamers and Border Wall; NYC Apartment Fire; Cities Tighten Security; Apple Apologies for Slowing Phones; Communities Still Wait for Power; Colorado Detective Defies Odds. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired December 29, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's been all over the place. And I -- the only reason I think Democrats are not taking advantage of the opportunity that Donald -- a Donald Trump presidency is because their base hates him so much and that they're afraid to -- they really are afraid to work with him because they're worried about the electoral consequences in their own primaries if they do.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: But that could be -- the same could be said about Republican lawmakers. It will be interesting to see how many, you know, campaign ads in 2018 include hugs with President Trump.

SANTORUM: No, look -- look, President Trump is a -- is a figure that is -- let's just say very controversial and someone who brings out very strong emotions on both sides. But, you know, he still -- he appealed to his base and he's got that 35 percent base that everybody talks about. But the reason he's appealed to his base is because there hasn't been a whole lot of effort on the part of Democrats to actually work with him on anything that he talked about. And I think it's disappointing.

I mean health care is one we probably could get some sort of bipartisan, you know, quick fix in on health care, but Democrats are really not interested in having any kind of substantive changes to Obamacare to make that happen. And as a result, they're not really going -- getting anywhere. So it's -- I think it's a missed opportunity for Democrats. Democrats will argue, on the other hand, that it's not a missed opportunity for them. They're doing great in elections.

WEIR: Right.

SANTORUM: Their poll numbers are up. 2018 looks like a great year. And that they're really focused on 2018, not really trying to get anything done here in 2018 election, not trying to get anything done prior to that.

WEIR: Rick Santorum, as always, good to chat with you. Happy New Year.

SANTORUM: My pleasure. Thank you. Happy New Year.

WEIR: All right.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Bill, now this terrible story from last night. Twelve people are dead, four of them children, in the deadliest fire in New York City in a quarter century. What caused this tragedy? We have a live report. We have an update from the scene.


[08:35:46] CAMEROTA: We are following some breaking news for you. Investigators are scrambling to figure out what caused the worst fire tragedy in New York City in 25 years last night. At least 12 people were killed, including four children, in this apartment in the Bronx.

CNN's Scott McLean is live at the scene with the latest.

What you have learned, Scott?


Well, Mayor Bill de Blasio is stressing that there could still be more deaths from this fire because there are still four people fighting for their lives in critical condition in the hospital.

What we know about the victims who died, 12 in total, is that they ranged in age from a one-year-old baby to a 63-year-old woman. In fact, four of them were children, at least three were under the age of 10.

For those who managed to get out, many of them had to come out the fire escapes on the side of the building into the absolute frigid temperature. It was a chaotic situation, as you can hear, in this 911 dispatch audio that we're hearing now for the first time. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giving us a baby, apartment 13. Baby trapped. People trapped apartment 13. We're getting a baby in there. Also apartment 6, people trapped.


MCLEAN: Now, firefighters, they have not yet pinned down a cause, of course, but they are still on scene. They've been here since the flames first broke out shortly before 7:00 last night.

On the first floor of this building, which may explain why this fire was just so deadly, this apartment building has 29 suites in total, according to public records. There were only four complaints but it since 20014. But there were six open violations registered with one city department, including one defective smoke detector and one broken carbon monoxide detector on the first floor of this building, again, where those flames broke out.

These violations, though, were first registered in the summer, in August, and so it is not clear whether they were fixed prior to this or whether they had any role at all in what happened here. But we should be hearing from the fire department later on this morning, Alisyn, and perhaps they'll be able to clarify.

WEIR: I'll take it here, Scott. Thank you so much.

Hearts breaking for those folks in that fire.

And, meanwhile, cities around the country are increasing security to unprecedented levels for New Year's Eve after this year's deadly attacks in New York City and Las Vegas. Law enforcement using new tactics to keep revelers safe.

And CNN's Athena Jones is live in Times Square with more details.

Good morning.


While securing the New Year's Eve celebrations here in Times Square is always a massive security challenge. This year we're going to see a stepped up police presence. And that's in part because of two recent terror attacks right here in New York. That truck incident on Halloween in lower Manhattan that left eight people dead and then just earlier this month when the man tried to -- when a young man tried to detonate a bomb in the subway system just a few blocks from here. And so we're going to see more police on the streets on Sunday night and we're going to see this whole area where I'm standing blocked off to traffic starting early in the day on Sunday.

There will be 12 access points for spectators to come in to pens (INAUDIBLE). They're going to be seeing teams of police officers, some with heavy weapons. There will be dogs able to sniff out explosives. Police will also have devices to detect radiological materials. There will be sanitation trucks filled with sand and also cement blocks to help block off this area.

Among the other measures being taken, rooftop observation and counter- sniper teams. One hundred and twenty-five parking garages in and around this area will be sealed. There will be additional teams of officers working in hotels and patrolling hotels and there will be a suicide attack training that the officers are being given to help them prevent a suicide attack.

"The New York Times" is reporting that for the first time police will be attaching reflective materials to the outsides of some buildings at certain intervals to help them figure out where a gunman may be located should that be necessary.

Authorities say that they expect up to $2 million spectators who will be screened twice before coming into the pens to watch the ball drop on Sunday night. And they say that while there is no direct, credible threat to the New Year's Eve celebration or to New York City in general, they want people to remain vigilant and say, as always, if you see something, say something.


[08:40:06] CAMEROTA: It's all pretty chilling stuff, and I don't mean the temperature. I mean all -- hearing about all of those precautions, you realize what the NYPD has on its plate.

Athena, thank you very much.

So, Apple is apologizing for intentionally slowing down iPhones with aging batteries, admitting it should have been more upfront about its software update. CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik joins us with more.

So what did they do?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So what they did was apologize. But I want you to notice something about this apology because it's more about how Apple communicated with customers about the software update, that it slowed down these older iPhones. But Apple isn't actually apologizing for causing the phones to work much slower.

So on its website, Apple posted this, part of a long explanation about why the company deliberately slowed down certain iPhones. It said, we know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize first and foremost. We have never and would never do anything to intestinally shorten the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience to drive up customer upgrades.

So right there you see Apple denying that it slowed down iPhones so customers would have to actually buy a new upgraded phone.

Now, to make up for this, the company is offering cheaper replacement batteries, temporarily, so dropping these prices temporarily to $29 from $79. This is going to begin next month. And we know this, customers were outraged with the company about the software update that deliberately slowed down these older iPhone to extend battery life. Some thought it was a ploy to get you to upgrade your device to a new one and how can we not think that? I know that when I walked in to an Apple store, I walked in to a Verizon store, my phone was slow. Not once did anybody suggest that I get a new battery. Oh, no, no, no, they suggested I buy a new phone.


CAMEROTA: Interesting.

WEIR: Of course.

CAMEROTA: But, see, I think that my battery has been losing life. Like it's only like working half as long as it used to. Are they doing that, too, or is that a different conspiracy theory?

KOSIK: Well, you can always get a new battery now. It's a little cheaper.

CAMEROTA: OK. I'm going to do that, $29.

WEIR: And it might be the kind of -- it might be the kind of thing where if you think -- don't think about a red truck, and then all you see are red trucks everywhere, right? KOSIK: Bingo. That would be it as well.

WEIR: You're thinking that it must be the problem.

CAMEROTA: Yes. All right.

WEIR: Anyway, thank you, Alison.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Alison.

KOSIK: You got it.

WEIR: Parts of Puerto Rico still in the dark one hundred days after Hurricane Maria. And normal is a long way away for so many folks. We'll get -- take you down to the island for the latest.

CAMEROTA: Also, people in the Houston area still struggling after Hurricane Harvey. One furniture store owner, who opened his doors to evacuees, maybe you remember that story, he is still helping them as they rebuild.

WEIR: Mattress Mack (ph)?

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's Mattress Mack. He's back in this edition of "Inspiring People."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We used to have a couch right here. This was one of the last rooms to take on water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went through Harvey. We lost all this. At this point, we're just trying to focus on our little boy and put the pieces here back together.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colleen (ph), Jeremy, great to have you all here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thankfully, Mattress Mack makes an offer to us to go in and pick $10,000 worth of whatever furniture we wanted and he was offering $3,600 worth of accessories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're giving one needy family a week that got affected by this horrible storm a house full of furniture.

Wonderful furniture, made in California, made in America.

And there's so many needy people out there, it's going to be a while as we continue to do this, because that's who we are. We are -- the essence of living is giving, said John Paul II, and that's what we're trying to do. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's what he does.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He's helped, I mean not just us, but the entire greater Houston area. During the time of the storm, when he was letting people say there, like evacuees, to letting the National Guard use his mattresses as a place to sleep. Just non-stop, from beginning to end, he's helped so many people all throughout this. It's amazing how much generosity one person can have.



[08:48:23] CAMEROTA: It has been 100 days since Hurricane Maria made landfall devastated Puerto Rico. Believe it or not, some people are still waiting for power.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has been our eyes on the ground there since the hurricane hit. She is live in San Juan with the latest.

What are those numbers, Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now the government is reporting 69 percent generation, Alisyn, but that is generation, not distribution. It does not reflect the amount of people who actually can turn the lights on in their home.

In San Jose, the majority of the people can. But when you go to the interior or you go to the southeastern part, as we did this week, it's a different story.


SANTIAGO (voice over): It's more than just a flip of a switch. Finally, a hint of what life was like before Hurricane Maria. After more than three months without power, Ida (ph) is one of the lucky few who just got power.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Hot water. She's able to take a hot shower. That's what she's excited about, a hot shower.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Yabucoa, in southeastern Puerto Rico, now has a massive generator to power its substation. It's enough to power part of the town, not a permanent solution, not enough to turn the lights back on for all 38,000 people.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Yabucoa has always been known for its agriculture. Now, it's known for that area, where Hurricane Maria came in with 155 mile per hour winds, knocking out electricity immediately. The mayor says he doesn't know when power will be restored, so he believes they were the first to deal with Maria and they could be the last.

[08:50:14] Mayor Rafael Surillo (ph) was born and raised in these mountains near the coast. He calls Maria a monster that destroyed them.

SANTIAGO (on camera): He's saying the urban area could get power very soon. But this area, the mountainous area, he says it could be summer before they see it. Which, take note, summer is when the hurricane season begins.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Miles away from town, high up in the mountains where the power lines are harder to fix, Cheryl de Jesus has little hope her home will be back to normal soon. Maria rushed in through the windows and doors and it ruined more than furniture, it ruined her life.

For now, new paint is all she can afford to fix any of it.

SANTIAGO (on camera): She has no idea when she'll get power back.

I'm asking her if she thinks it will be soon.


SANTIAGO: Without power, Cheryl and her children lost more than the lights. Without power, they don't have water.

SANTIAGO (voice over): The mayor says the problem, constant bureaucratic delays.

SANTIAGO (on camera): For a month they had power workers here, but not enough materials to actually carry out the work.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Mayor Surillo calls this a start. He says they need more generators, power poles, cables. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers admits a shortage of supplies stemming from other natural disasters is part of the reason it took so long to get power back to people like Ida.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Yes, she doesn't have to wash clothes by hand anymore.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Back in town, Ida will spend tonight in a home overjoyed. Power is the best Christmas gift they could ask for. But for the families up in the mountains, the sun sets on another night as they wait for their gift to arrive.


SANTIAGO: And, Alisyn, we should note that family in the mountains, those children you just saw there, they actually have not had power since the day before Hurricane Irma. So for them it is 115 days now that they have not had power. The Army Corps of Engineers here says that for families like that it could be until May that they have to wait to get power back.


CAMEROTA: Leyla, it is so good to have you on the ground there to remind people the hurricane has passed but the dire situation has not. Thank you very much for the reporting.

So, a Colorado detective, who was seriously wounded on the job, is beating the odds by pushing past his brush with death. CNN's Polo Sandoval shows us how he's going "Beyond the Call of Duty."


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Colorado Detective Dan Brite can no longer rush out the door with the rest of his SWAT team, but his devotion to duty hasn't faltered. He's back with the deputies he swore he'd never leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired. Man down. One of ours.

SANDOVAL: Officers were called to a Denver suburb following reports of a suicidal man who was armed, in an RV, and dangerously close to a middle school and a hospital.

Before Parker Police Officer Ronny Durell (ph) shot and killed the suspect --


SANDOVAL: Investigators say the gunman used an AK-47 to spray bullets at the hospital and at deputies. One of them changed Detective Brite's life forever.

DAN BRITE, DETECTIVE, DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: It entered the side and it took out 30 percent of my left lung and damaged by diagram, damaged my stomach and it took out my entire spleen.


SANDOVAL: Christine Brite's husband of 14 years was in the fight of his life.

D. BRITE: I was dead when I went into the doors, and the doctor, Michael Protaki (ph), he literally held my heart in his hands and massaged it back to life. I had less than a 1 percent chance of survival.

C. BRITE: All I kept whispering to him was, don't leave me. You have these two little girls. They need you.

SANDOVAL: Brite, a retired Marine, beat those odds. Nine days after the shooting, he woke up. Four months after that, he was heading home.

He lost the use of his legs and has been told at best he has a 3 percent chance of walking again. But he's looking to beat the odds on his own.

D. BRITE: Oh, it feels good.

SANDOVAL: With help from his wife and a pair of leg braces, Brite is taking baby steps on his long, and at times painful road to recovery. C. BRITE: Good job.

SANDOVAL: At home, a different reality sets in.

D. BRITE: I'm watching my 10-year-old having to shovel the snow. Coming from a lifestyle where I took care of everything, you know, that's a huge blow.

SANDOVAL: There is hope, though. Brite will wear a pair of robotic legs.

[08:55:00] D. BRITE: When we tried them out for the first time, it was very emotional because it felt good to be 5'10" again.

SANDOVAL: Each arduous step bringing Brite closer to walking again.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, Littleton, Colorado.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, what a remarkable man. You'll meet more heroes next in "The Good Stuff."


CAMEROTA: Time now for "The Good Stuff." Wait until you hear this one.

A North Carolina couple had quite the Christmas Eve.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were, like, what are the odds? This is the craziest day ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God put us at the right moment at the right time for the people that needed us the most.


CAMEROTA: OK, that's Crystal Travis (ph) and her husband Roger. They were driving to meet each other when Crystal spotted something happening by the side of the road.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't really tell at first. And then I realized, yes, this house is on fire.


CAMEROTA: OK, so Crystal and her daughter hopped out of the car and they ended up pulling people to safety. That would be enough for any family. However, more than 20 miles away, at about the same time --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did get a pulse back from the child. The child was crying.


[09:00:02] CAMEROTA: OK, that's the husband, Roger. He's an off duty EMT. He happened upon a similar scene. He helped revive a baby that had stopped breathing. So one family, two sets of lives saved, one amazing Christmas.