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CNN NEWSROOM

Growing Humanitarian Crisis In Puerto Rico; Fuel, Water, Food Shortages Across Puerto Rico; Trump Cabinet And Private Planes On Taxpayer Dime; Kushner Email Controversy; New Message Appears To Be From ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi; Kurdish Independence Vote Complicates War On ISIS; Two Volcanoes Threaten To Erupt In Southeast Asia; Packers & Bears Players Lock Arms in Show of Support; California Prepares for "Big One" Earthquake. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 29, 2017 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, distribution breakdown, thousands of shipping containers are desperately needed, supplies left sitting for days, while millions across Puerto Rico face a growing humanitarian crisis.

(INAUDIBLE), Trump's cabinet and private planes flying high on the taxpayers' dime, but there could be political turbulence ahead.

Also, this hour, players have been using arms on Thursday night football, but no one takes a knee as the National Anthem controversy continues.

Hello. Welcome everybody all around the world. I'm John Vause. This is now the third hour of NEWSROOM LA.

So close, yet so far. Much of what Puerto Ricans need after Hurricane Maria - food, water, fuel, medicine and construction material - it's right there. It's in country, it's right on their doorstep, but it is going nowhere.

At the port in San Juan, nine days after the storm, much of that aid is not being moved because of the shortage of truck drivers and a shortage of fuel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSE AYALA, VICE PRESIDENT, CROWLEY MARITIME: Right now - right now, there is a person in need of medicine; right now, babies, children don't have a bottle of water. And it's here. It's in Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Even the trucks that actually make it out of the port, they are facing roads which are clogged with debris making it difficult - impossible to navigate. Many bridges have also been washed out.

But progress is being made. US emergency officials say some food, water and other aid is actually reaching the hardest-hit areas. In some cases, airlifted in because of those blocked roads.

US Army Corps of Engineers has been assigned to rebuild the island's power grid. The next priority is to get fuel to gas stations.

Forty-four of Puerto Rico's 69 hospitals are now operational after receiving fuel for emergency generators and a fuel distribution system is now set up to keep them running.

The power is also back on at the San Juan International Airport, which means electricity for air conditioning and other vital operations.

And on Friday, Acting US Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke is expected to travel to Puerto Rico. US President Donald Trump will visit next week.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says conditions, as they gradually improve, so will deliveries of vital supplies across the island. But, right now, Puerto Rico's battered infrastructure makes reaching those areas especially difficult.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Can only shove so much through the airports that were not -that were not operational. There were - you can always shove so much through the shipping ports that were not operational.

Once we get to the islands, we've established regional distribution sites. We're also doing airlifts to the remote locations.

The roadway system is gone in many places. So, it's not just possible to pick up the supplies and move it forward. That last mile is a coordinated sequence process to be able to get it to the points of distribution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Well, despite all of those official reassurances, many within this community are suffering. A lot of residents are especially vulnerable, like people with chronic illnesses. You can't get the medicines they need to survive. And doctors are up against a frustrating bureaucracy.

As CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta found out when he visited an emergency shelter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSEFINA ALVAREZ, STUCK IN SHELTER IN PUERTO RICO: (Speaking foreign language).

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is 62-year-old Josefina Alvarez's reality. Look at what happened to us, she pleads. Nobody is taking care of us.

For two weeks, Ms. Alvarez has been here in a shelter, an hour outside of San Juan, but may as well be on a different island altogether. And like thousands of others, she's become really sick. DR. ASTRID MORALES, VOLUNTEER: We have no hospital to get her because all the emergency are closed because they have no electricity. And we have no place to get her. She's getting more complicated.

GUPTA: Dr. Astrid Morales, a volunteer at the shelter, has tried everything to get Alvarez to a hospital.

(on-camera): An ambulance we saw just left.

MORALES: Yes, because they have no authorization from their bosses to let -

GUPTA: That seems - that seems ridiculous.

MORALES: Tell me about it.

GUPTA: I mean, we're in the middle of a - we're in the middle of a disaster - in the middle of a crisis and you're waiting for paperwork?

MORALES: Yes.

GUPTA: This is a very treatable problem under any other circumstance.

MORALES: Yes, sure.

GUPTA: Get her to the hospital, put an I.V.

MORALES: Probably a few hours of I.V. antibiotics and then she can go home.

GUPTA: What happens if she doesn't get those?

MORALES: Well, she might get her infection to the blood and get complicated with sepsis, and even death.

[02:05:07] GUPTA (voice-over): There's no communication anywhere here. So, we give her our satellite phone to try and call for help.

MORALES: (SPEAKS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

GUPTA: Puerto Rico's secretary of health finds a hospital for Alvarez, but then the same problem. How to get her there.

(on-camera): We can take the patient. I'm a doctor. We can take the patient ourselves. And I know time is of the essence here, but the secretary is there.

MORALES: Well, he already accepted the patient -

GUPTA: Yes.

MORALES: So, she -

GUPTA: Yes, we could - we could do that. We can't even believe what's happening here. I mean, she's - there's no power, there's no water, she's a diabetic, she doesn't have insulin. She has an infection that could threaten her life. No ambulance will take her to the hospital. That's what's happening here.

That's OK. Lie here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wants to sit from this side.

GUPTA: OK. I see the ulceration here.

ALVAREZ: (SPEAKS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

GUPTA: Can you move the wheelchair up, please?

There's nothing about this that makes sense. I mean, look what we're doing here. We're transporting a patient. This is not an ambulance, but it's the only thing that we really have right now to get her to the care that she needs.

There are probably thousands of patients who are in similar shelters with no power, no water, no medications, no way out. There are probably thousands more who are still in their homes who haven't even been able to get to a shelter. So, she's just one example of what's happening here.

(INAUDIBLE) a bit. So, we're trying to just get her into the triage area.

OK, one more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, wait, wait.

GUPTA: Watch out, watch out.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Loiza, Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Like many celebrities from Puerto Rico, actor Kamar De Los Reyes is using his fame to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis on the island.

A few days ago, he went to check on his family, also to deliver supplies. Here is a clip he posted on social media about what turned out to be a heart-wrenching return home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMAR DE LOS REYES, ACTOR HAS RELATIVES IN PUERTO RICO: I made it to Puerto Rico. I made it to Ponce. My family - my family made it through Hurricane Maria. They're all good physically. Most are traumatized by the experience. It's bad here. The island is in complete devastation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And Kamar joins us here now with more on the situation in Puerto Rico. Thank you coming in. Listening to the rest of the clip, we only played about 18 seconds of it, but there's much more to it. When I listened to it, you seemed almost stunned when you were

describing the conditions that your family were living in, and not just your family, but millions of others in Puerto Rico.

Were you sort of really taken aback when you got there? Was it sort of worse than you thought it was going to be?

DE LOS REYES: I'm still shell shocked. It's like a warzone. It's really kind of difficult to put into words.

VAUSE: Your family is living in that right now, like so many other families?

DE LOS REYES: Yes. Without water, without power, with very little food. The only way to get any of that is to stand in very, very long lines. And I'm talking thousands of people. And if you are lucky enough to get to the front of that line and actually receive some fuel or cash or food -

VAUSE: And that's how your family is surviving? They are essentially going to these emergency centers to receive whatever, FEMA or the -

DE LOS REYES: Where my family is from, which is Ponce, and I traveled these roads up until yesterday, every day, twice a day from San Juan to Ponce, I didn't see one FEMA truck. I didn't see any convoys. I didn't see any supplies being delivered to the south central part of the island.

My focus right now is trying to get to whoever I need to get to try an open Mercedita Airport, international airport in Ponce. I don't know what's going on there. I don't what the situation is there, but I would think that by opening up that tarmac, we would have a little -

VAUSE: So, where are the supplies coming from?

DE LOS REYES: - accessibility. Right now, when the supermarket opens up - there is food, there is food, but you have to stand in line to get inside that supermarket. It's usually about a two-hour wait. And then when you get inside, there is usually -

VAUSE: There is not much.

DE LOS REYES: No, there is no water. There is no water. I experienced that first-hand. I went into a supermarket. I waited two hours to get water for my mom.

VAUSE: She is 85.

DE LOS REYES: And she is 84, yes. She is 84. And my mom is half- blind, partially deaf. She's 84. She can't stand into those lines. I mean, it's impossible.

[02:10:09] VAUSE: You really wanted her to leave with you, but she refused.

DE LOS REYES: I went there to rescue my mom. That was my intent. I had that with - I was like a racehorse with blinders on. That's what I was going there to do, to get my mom. She wouldn't leave.

VAUSE: Why?

DE LOS REYES: That's her island. And there's a lot of Puerto Rican's like that. And I can see why. They love being there. They're resilient and they're faithful and they're god-loving and god-fearing people, who -

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) tested.

DE LOS REYES: Yes, they are being tested, but they believe that the United States of America is coming to save them because they're American.

VAUSE: With that in mind, the Acting Homeland Security head Elaine Duke was specifically asked by reporters if she was satisfied with the federal government's response to this disaster, listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I really would appreciate any support that we get. I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths taken that have taken place in such as a devastating hurricane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So, without getting into politics here, is it a good news story?

DE LOS REYES: We knew it was coming.

VAUSE: Maria.

DE LOS REYES: We knew Maria was coming. We should have been on the sidelines. We should have been there within the first 48 hours. It's a week. And now we're sending a three-star general to see what's going on with the supplies and the relief.

VAUSE: Why do you think it's been a slower response than say what we saw in Texas or Florida?

DE LOS REYES: We are a Caribbean Island. A lot of people here in the United States don't know that we are American citizens, that we fought in the American revolution, that we fought for this country. We've earned that relief and we should get it.

VAUSE: There are a lot of Puerto Rican stars and celebrities like yourself. They are speaking out. Jennifer Lopez, she donated a million dollars. She's raising a whole lot more. Just on Thursday, we heard from Ricky Martin. He was on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICKY MARTIN, SINGER, PUERTO RICAN NATIVE: Right now, Puerto Rico is suffering. We were destroyed by a hurricane and it's been very difficult right now. There is no water. There is no electricity. There is no food. There is no medicine. There is no diesel for the generators that will make the hospital work, people are dying.

So as a Puerto Rican, as an American that I am, I'm here to ask for your help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: It's a similar message to yours. Apart from the fundraising aspects here, how important is it that you keep reminding the mainland that, yes, these are US citizens and that they are suffering.

DE LOS REYES: I keep telling everybody this is a marathon. We've got to put on our big boy, our adult pants and this is going to be a struggle for a very long time.

VAUSE: Do you think the help will be there in the long term or is that a concern that maybe it won't?

DE LOS REYES: I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful because I believe in America. I believe in the system. I believe in the message that we used to send and that we haven't been sending of late.

And this administration has got to get on it. And this president, he's got to start sending a different message about the Puerto Rican people, and that's me being as diplomatic as I could possibly be on air right now.

VAUSE: I understand it's so difficult for a lot of people and I wish you and your family all the very best. Thank you for coming and sharing your experience.

DE LOS REYES: Thank you, John. I appreciate it.

VAUSE: And if you would like to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and around the Caribbean, please go to CNN.com/impact. There you can donate to one of the charities, which we have vetted, so you know the money will get to where it's needed or you can even volunteer your time.

Well, President Trump isn't just defending his administration's hurricane response, he's talking it up like this.

He tweeted FEMA and first responders doing a great job in Puerto Rico. Massive food and water delivered. Docks and electric grid dead. Locals trying really hard to help, but many have lost their homes. Military is now onsite and I will be there Tuesday. Which press would treat fairly?

OK. Well, joining us now here in Los Angeles, David Siders, a senior reporter for "POLITICO." David, let's just be clear, this isn't just the media questioning the government's response here. You've got Democratic lawmakers who are demanding an oversight hearing into the response. Listen now to Gen. Honore. He was the general in charge of the recovery after Katrina. This is what he said about the government's response so far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[02:15:00] LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: They need to scale up in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is bigger than Katrina.

And if somebody from the Pentagon want to call me or from Northern Command, call me. I'll give you today our numbers because (INAUDIBLE) report and the lessons learned.

It doesn't look like we learned anything. We're slow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK. And Los Reyes, of course, and most importantly all the Puerto Ricans themselves are saying that this is slow, it's clumsy, it's just taking too long. Big picture, does this politically get into sort of a Katrina moment, if you like, for Donald Trump?

DAVID SIDERS, SENIOR REPORTER, "POLITICO": The tweet today, the great job, seemed close at least to where some people are making a comparison to hell of a job, Brownie. So, that's a Katrina moment.

I think what he really runs into a problem with, or could, is a juxtaposition just like we have on the show tonight. Your guest talking about real problems there next to a tweet like that. And to see his administration officials saying things like this is a good news story.

Even if the response was good, I'm not sure that somebody would call it that if you saw what was going on the ground.

VAUSE: It's incredibly out of touch.

SIDERS: That's right.

VAUSE: Yes. OK. OK, so this is sort of one potential scandal for the administration. The other growing scandal right now is cabinet secretaries and the use of private jets. The Health and Human Secretary Tom Price, EPA Director Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin all being caught up on this.

Price seems to be in it the deepest. "POLITICO", your website reporting the total travel private and military jets by Price is more than $1 million. He's offered to cover the cost of his seat, which is about $51,000 - $52,000. And then he kind of boasted about all of this to "Fox News". Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM PRICE, US HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: This is unprecedented. Never been done to our understanding before by a secretary, in spite of the fact that previous administrations have had secretaries that flew an awful lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: He's saying it's unprecedented. No one has ever done this before. Talk like that doesn't really help at the moment, does it?

SIDERS: This is tone deaf. Americans hate this, especially Trump supporters. They were brought up on waste, fraud and abuse.

And to the extent that there's been polling on Tom Price and his travel, people don't like it. But that being said, I don't think the penetration is all that great on this issue. You don't see in middle America or even here on the West Coast, anywhere outside of Washington, that this is a huge level of concern.

I think the bigger issue for the administration is that something like this - this Price scandal gets wrapped up in - or talking about taking a knee, the focus on football players.

Next to what's going on in Puerto Rico, I think, seems like this is an administration that's distracted and can't get its ship together.

VAUSE: Cabinet secretaries flying on private jets on very, very short flights between, what was it, Washington and Philadelphia, I think was one of them.

It's almost a let-them-eat-cake moment while people are struggling in Puerto Rico. So, like you say, the juxtaposition is not a good look.

SIDERS: And it's a thing about optics at this point. I mean, if you looked at that amount of money, it's budget dust in the grand scheme of things. You can make a - some people could make an argument that high-level public officials should be flying on chartered planes because their time is very valuable and we would rather have this person doing some policy thing.

The fact is he was already on thin ice on the healthcare failure. So, that's a problem for him. And it just doesn't look good.

VAUSE: And this is an easy scandal for people to understand, unlike the Russian inquiry. It's pretty straightforward. The guy flew on a private jet when he could have taken a commercial flight and it cost thousands of dollars.

SIDERS: Donald Trump always talked about his plane, Trump Force one being an extension of his brand, his supporters loved it. It was always behind him during the campaign. It was a symbol of this prestige and success.

So, that sort of - does that sort of translate to his cabinet secretaries as well. Do they not get a pass?

SIDERS: I think had Tom Price had some success on healthcare, if his stock was high, he was seen as a winner, I'm not sure that Trump would be as furious about this as my colleagues are reporting that he is.

VAUSE: Right. OK, there's another story out of DC. This involves Jared Kushner, the White House senior adviser and Trump's son-in-law. He failed to tell Senate investigators about a private email account, which he had been using for official business at the White House.

The Senate is very unhappy that they found out by CNN's reporting. So, the committee wrote to Kushner to ensure that he has turned over everything, including personal email accounts described to the news media as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps or similar communication channels you may have used or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry.

His lawyer says this is no big deal. There's no relevant emails or relevant documents in those emails, but it does go to a pattern of Kushner to release - failure to disclose.

SIDERS: Well, and not only that, I think it's two problems for the Trump administration, for Trump and for Kushner. It goes to that pattern, but then also it recalls the entire 2016 campaign and the chants of lock her up, lock her up.

These were people who cared very much about from what email accounts somebody pressed send. And for them now to be facing this is a bit of an irony that, I think, a lot of the electorate will find rich to soak up.

[02:20:07] VAUSE: There's also the trust factor that the lawyer - Kushner's lawyer said nothing here. I mean, that remains to be seen.

SIDERS: We'll see. They are investigating.

VAUSE: Exactly. David, thank you. Good, see you.

And we'll take a short break. When we come back, reports of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death may have been greatly exaggerated. The new evidence which suggests the ISIS leader is still alive.

Also, how the Kurdish independence vote could lead to a setback in the war against ISIS, an exclusive report from northern Iraq in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. The leader of ISIS appears to have released a new audio message for the first time in almost a year. US Intelligence officials are yet to verify if it's authentic, but they say they have no reason to doubt it's real.

And if that's the case, it pretty much lays to rest Russia's claim that it most likely killed al-Baghdadi in an airstrike last May. The message appears to be recorded recently. It refers to North Korean nuclear threats. And the speaker also mocks the US and calls for jihadi attacks worldwide, claiming America, Europe and Russia are living in a state of terror.

It also insists ISIS remains, despite all the territory it has lost.

And the Kurds are a major factor behind those ISIS defeats in Iraq and Syria. They've battled the terror group for years, but many have wanted independence much longer than that.

This week, they voted overwhelmingly to split with Iraq and that's already having an impact on the war on ISIS.

Nima Elbagir has this exclusive report from northern Iraq, near the ISIS stronghold of Hawija.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bridge across the (INAUDIBLE) river. A bullet-scarred watch tower looms over the remaining few meters of the Kurdish-Peshmerga controlled territory.

(on-camera): This bridge right here, this river, this was the border between ISIS-held territory and the territory held by the Kurdish forces. It took them an entire year with air cover from the US-led coalition just to be able to push ISIS back just another kilometer to the ISIS frontline, which is just up there where we're headed.

(voice-over): Major Adnan Majeed is in charge of this garrison on the outskirts of Kirkuk. As he walks us up to his lookout perched out towards the front line, it's eerily quiet.

(on-camera): All of this that you can see out there, that is still under ISIS control?

ADNAN MAJEED, MAJOR, PESHMERGA FORCES (through translator): All of our intelligence information is that ISIS morale is low. Their fighters are attempting to flee. They are weak in Hawija.

ELBAGIR: This was essentially supposed to be the staging ground for the operation to retake Hawija. But that hasn't happened yet.

Since the referendum for independence was carried out against the wishes of the Iraqi federal government, so much of what pertains to this operation to retake one of ISIS' last remaining strongholds is in flux.

[02:25:10] (voice-over): "Shoulder to shoulder with the US" reads this commando's patch. At the base, American-supplied armored vehicles line up against the wall.

The Kurdish forces are increasingly trained and supplied by the US, but that doesn't mean that they have the United States' support in their bid for independence from Baghdad.

The US State Department has said the referendum has already affected coordination in their bid to dislodge ISIS from its remaining territory and is raising tensions, they say, ISIS is looking to exploit. Major Majeed and his men expected the Iraqi army units to arrive on the 26th. Days have passed with no sign of them. They're still waiting and they're growing worried.

An Iraqi armed forces spokesman tells CNN the Peshmerga were never expected to play a key role in the push on Hawija. Major Majeed shows us a wall bearing the names of the comrades that they lost to ISIS.

His men, he says, are committed to honoring those sacrifices, committed to the war against ISIS. But these very sacrifices are the reason they believe they've earned the right to independence, earned their right to go it alone whatever the rest of the world may think.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Kirkuk, Northern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, three volcanoes in southeast Asia are threatening to erupt at any moment, forcing tens of thousands to flee.

On the island of Bali, officials say more than 134,000 residents have been taking to shelters. And in Vanuatu, residents there are being moved away from the Monaro volcano. According to one expert, just a coincidence, both volcanoes are showing signs of erupting at the same time.

And here in California, rescue crews have been coping with another rockslide. It happened at the El Capitan rock formation at Yosemite National Park injuring one person.

A day earlier, a man from Wales was killed after a smaller rock slide occurred at this popular climbing location. Officials at the park say it will remain open despite both of those incidents.

We will take a quick break. When we come back "State of America" with Kate Bolduan is next for our viewers in Asia. For everyone else, Thursday and the football in the US, not one player takes a knee. Instead the Packers and the Bears lock arms.

And former NFL player Eric Matthews will join us to explain where this protest goes from here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:15] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

The headlines this hour --

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: Now to the protests during the national theme at pro football games in the U.S. At the start of Thursday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, no player took a knee to protest police brutality and fans seemed to mostly ignore a call to link arms in a show of unity. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, to honor America, please stand, remove your hats, and join Tyler Barr (ph) as he sings our national anthem.

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: As you see, both teams stood with locked arms as the "Star Spangled Banner" was sung.

Some fans did, in fact, join arms. Most did what they normally do, with their hands on their hearts.

Former NFL player, Eric Matthews, joins me from Atlanta.

Thanks for staying up late.

So, Eric, are you surprised most of the fans decided not to link arms after the team put out a statement asking for them to do that? You played for the Packers. You know what the fans are like. And no one took a knee during this game.

ERIC MATTHEWS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I'm not surprised. The fans, they're there to see the game. They're not in the middle of politics and what's going on. And so the fans, they're there to see the game.

The players, they're still trying to make known what's going on with our president. And I say this from the first time, this is not about disrespecting our flag or soldiers. This is about injustice in our communities. And, too, to our president, what he said against NFL players, you know, call them SOBs. From a president, that just made players fired up and want to take more notice about what's going on in our communities. It's nothing against our NFL, our flag, against our soldiers. My grandfather was -- he was in World War III. I have an uncle in the military for 15 years. I would never disrespect my family in any manner. And I see where these players are coming from.

VAUSE: The Chicago Bears is one of six teams that hasn't had a single player take a knee during all of this. How important is it that they did link arms with the Packers? Do you see that as a genuine moment of unity or just a way to avoid controversy and criticism?

MATTHEWS: Linked arms -- I think more of the knee taking -- I think the linked-arm is unity. The players come together showing we won't let our president disrespect us players. We're American citizens. And for our president to come on national TV and disrespect our players, our Americans in that manner, that's just -- that's not what should be called for from our highest part of the government, someone to do something like that. VAUSE: Also in the last couple of hours, the Denver Broncos issued a

statement and this is a team where a number of players actually took a knee last week. Here's part of the statement: "We may have different values and beliefs but there's one thing we can all agree on, we're a team and we stand together. No matter how divisive some comments and issues can be, nothing should get in the way of that. Starting Sunday, we'll be standing together."

How many teams will follow this led by the Broncos, and the fact that none of the fans linked arms tonight in Green Bay? Does it seem like some of the momentum has come out of the protest?

MATTHEWS: I don't think it's died down. I think you'll see the whole season, players and teams linking arms and coming as a unity. It hasn't died. And it started last year with Kaepernick taking a knee for one reason only, injustice with the police, injustice in the communities. And I think the president fired that up when he made that statement. I don't see it dying down anytime soon. And I hope I don't see it dying down anytime soon. I hope these NFL players continue to show that this is going on, this has been going on for years. I continue hoping that they show that.

[02:35:27] VAUSE: There's been a suggestion Kaepernick has already won this because at least now America is talking about race, police are talking about prosecution of African-American men, injustice. It seems like the question we're having is, who linked arms, who took a knee, and who didn't? It seems the focus has shifted away.

MATTHEWS: With the whole thing, it's starting to open up a lot of different things from race to injustice to NFL. And I think this started where the president started it. I wish he would have came to the players, to the owners, as a president to sit down and discuss what's going on, instead of just disrespecting black men, which NFL is 90 percent of, and that's what made this whole thing jump off. Come together. Let's find out a solution to what's going on. And I just want to see that more, this country coming to the table and find out what's happening in American right now.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Yes. Sorry.

The assumption there is that President Donald Trump is genuinely interested in Kaepernick's protest. Some say this was a deliberate part of a plan by the president as a distraction to divide the country and appeal to his base and to throw some red meat out there.

MATTHEWS: And I don't know what he has - what he has in mind and what he's trying to do, but right now, we have too much going on in our country. Puerto Rico is 90 percent power is out and they don't have water. We have more concerns right now. If you think about Korea. We need to be worried about Korea, Puerto Rico. We just have taxes. So much we need to worry about than an NFL player, which is, to me, entertainment. And our president is taking into our entertainment more than the political things going on in the world right now.

VAUSE: There's a lot going on, and we certainly didn't need to the politicization of all of this as well.

Eric, thank you so much for coming in.

MATTHEWS: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: And with that, we'll take a short break. Coming up, the death toll rises in Mexico after last week's deadly earthquake.

Also, Mexico's quake, a wake-up call for many in California. And how the state is preparing for the long overdue "big one."

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[02:40:10] VAUSE: Hope of finding survivors after last week's deadly earthquake in Mexico is starting to fade and rescue efforts are focused on just two sites. At least 34 people were killed when a 7.1 magnitude quake rocked Mexico, the second one to shake the country this month.

President Enrique Pena Nieto says these disasters have tested the country's strength.

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ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translation): During the past three weeks, over 400 people, sadly, lost their lives and close to 190,000 properties were severely damaged or destroyed because of these disasters. Despite these painful events, Mexico is united and standing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Mexico's earthquakes have left many in California on age. The state is also in a quake zone and experts say the "big one" is long overdue.

Here's Kyung Lah.

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KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is nothing they can do --

(SHOUTING)

LAH: -- except watch in horror.

Across Mexico City, building after building collapsing.

(SCREAMING)

(SHOUTING)

LAH: A magnitude 7.1 quake struck.

(CROSSTALK) LAH: A chilling reminder for southern California and a race to prepare for Mother Nature's ticking clock.

(on camera): You think it's coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, statistically, it's coming. If you were playing your cards, time now to fold.

LAH (voice-over): The devastating magnitude 6.7 quake was 23 years age, and numerous experts warn not enough has been done since then. The U.S. Geological Survey says California is due. The chance the state will be hit by a quake just as powerful in the next 30 years is greater than 99 percent. A 7.8 magnitude quake along the San Andreas Fault would cause an estimated 1800 deaths, 50,000 serious injuries, and $214 billion dollars in damages, crippling the region.

The city of Los Angeles is ordering some 14,000 vulnerable buildings be retrofitted but that will take years to finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the difference. This one is made to resist any lateral motion from an earthquake.

LAH (on camera): It's thicker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's thicker. It's bigger, thicker, heavier.

LAH: What does this column do for people living above it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It keeps them alive, where the building won't collapse.

LAH (voice-over): Just as important --

(ALERT SYSTEM

LAH: -- Mexico's earthquake early alert system.

(ALERT SYSTEM)

LAH: Giving people up to a 30-second warning to head to some place safe, like this square. While Mexico has it

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's approaching this now.

(ALERT SYSTEM)

ANNOUNCER: Earthquake. Earthquake.

LAH: The Cal Tech seismology lab is still developing the U.S. system. Rolling out slowly not because they can do it, but because of a lack of federal funding.

If you look at the country's that do have the system, they message. Earthquake supplies nearly doled sin quake, good news, but comprehensive changes are too lacking for those who see what's looming. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at the countries that do have this

system, they've got the will and the message after important big earthquakes.

LAH: On a personal level, Californians are preparing. Earthquake kit sales at this store doubled after the Mexico City quake. Go news, says Cal Tech, but comprehensive changes lag too slowly for scientists who see what's looming.

(on camera): What kind of disaster level are we looking at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be a very bad scenario. I honestly don't want to live to see that day.

(ALERT SYSTEM)

ANNOUNCER: Earthquake. Earthquake.

LAH (voice-over): Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Be prepared.

OK, thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

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