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New Test Strip Helps Prevent Fentanyl Overdoses; New Laws for 2019 Take Effect; Federal Employees Sue over being Forced to Work without Pay; Kim Jong-un Warns "New Path" Inevitable if U.S. Keeps Sanctions. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 1, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:31:53]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And we are staying on the issue of the opioid epidemic and the fight against it, which now has a new weapon. It is a test strip. Take a look at this.

Heroin and cocaine users can use this to detect fentanyl in their drugs. Why does this matter? Because according to a new government report, fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America. It's often used and laced in heroin and cocaine. And it is the most commonly used drug that results in overdoses.

Elizabeth Cohen is with me, our senior medical correspondent. So much has been made of fentanyl and synthetic fentanyl, a lot which comes into this country from Mexico and from China. What does this strip do? And I'm interested, is there any evidence that people who use it and find fentanyl in their drug don't take that substance, at least at that moment?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So it's really two separate, two great and very separate questions, Poppy. So these strips seem to work quite well at detecting fentanyl. So when people buy heroin and cocaine, they don't realize that it's often, as you said, laced with fentanyl. And fentanyl is just so incredibly powerful. So this test works like a pregnancy test. You just dip it in. It only takes a minute or two. You dip it into drugs as you're preparing them and you see if it has fentanyl or not.

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and so incredibly dangerous. And so the theory is the drug users would say, oh well, I better not do these drugs -

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: -- but that's the theory. The question is are they going to say, you know, no drugs today, or I'll have to go buy some new drugs? Or are they going to be so, you know, anxious to get that high that they'll do the drugs anyhow. They could also decide to take a smaller dose of the drugs, take less of them, but again, will they make that decision even if they know there's fentanyl.

HARLOW: Right. And that's a question. What I find interesting is that even though this could be a life-saving measure, there is some pretty ardent opposition to this. I know the head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration vehemently opposes it, saying you know this gives a false sense of security.

COHEN: Right. That same argument was used - if you remember Poppy -- during the time of the needle exchange programs when those were beginning.

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: And that was giving drug users clean needles to help stop the spread of HIV. And people said, oh, you're giving these drug users a false sense of security with clean needles. Well, I tell you, you know public health experts will tell you that these needle exchange programs were so successful. I mean they really did reduce the spread of HIV, so that argument, there's some problems with that argument.

HARLOW: Understood. Elizabeth thank you for reporting on this. I hadn't even heard of these devices until recently. So thanks very much.

A new year, a new wave of laws taking effect now from minimum wage hikes across a number of states to a new law requiring publicly held corporations to have at least one woman on the board of directors.

Joining me now, Jean Casarez has a look at the laws. That board of directors, well that's in California.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is in California. You know, Poppy, from the East Coast to the West Coast, there are so many new laws taking effect today. And some of them might affect you.

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CASAREZ (voice-over): 2019 rings in with bigger paychecks for some workers in at least 19 states that are increasing or adjusting their hourly minimum wages on or around New Year's Day.

[10:35:09] Workers from Maine to Missouri to Arizona will see bumps in their paychecks, even as the federal minimum wage hasn't budged from $7.25 since 2009.

Just as the 2020 political season kicks off, next week the state of Florida will restore the voting rights of former felons upon the completion of their sentences, excluding those convicted of murder and sexual offenses.

Utah officially has the nation's lowest blood-alcohol content standard for drunk driving -- now at .05 percent. That's as little as one drink for most women, and three drinks for most men to reach the new limit.

Over in California, public-held corporations based in the state must have at least one woman on the board of directors by the end of the year. And by the end of 2021, corporations must have at least two or three female members, depending on the size of the board of directors.

Violations of this new law can be punishable by fines up to $300,000.

Also in California, pet stores are no longer allowed to sell cats, dogs or rabbits unless they come from animal shelters or nonprofit rescue groups.

The Golden State also is home to a new law that gives pets more rights -- no longer will the family dog and cat be treated by courts as physical property. Judges can now decide who gets custody of the family pet during divorce proceedings, based on what is in the best interests of the pets.

Fashion forward hunters in Illinois will now have another color option for their hunting wardrobe. The state becomes the seventh to expand the color options for hunting from the standard blaze orange to an equally bright blaze pink.

And in the age of tweets and texts, the state of Ohio is going retro. Students there will now be required to learn how to write in cursive by the end of the fifth grade.

Just some of the new laws Americans are waking up to this new year.

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CASAREZ: And right here in New York, actually, foam containers are banned now because they cannot be recycled. So, Poppy, restaurants are going to have to find other ways for the take out.

HARLOW: Very good point. Thank you, Jean, Happy New Year.

CASAREZ: Happy New Year.

HARLOW: Trump administration facing a class action lawsuit this morning from a federal employees group that are forced to work without pay. Do they have a case? Next.

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[10:42:19] HARLOW: Well, President Trump and Democrats bicker over who is to blame for the government shutdown, you've got some 800,000 workers off the job right now, some of them required to come to work, not get paid. Now, labor union representing some of those federal employees is suing the government for requiring so-called essential employees to go to work day in, day out, without pay.

With me now is our legal analyst, Shan Wu. I'm fascinated by this and the chances here that this federal - that this case, this class action case against the federal government has, right? They're going after and using here as a basis for their argument, Shan, the fair labor practices act. Do they have a shot?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They do. And in fact, not only do they have a shot, Poppy, but they previously have won.

HARLOW: Right.

WU: The same law firm had filed a lawsuit over the 2013 shutdown, and the court agreed with them that the employees should have been paid. And they got double overtime. So I think they have a very good shot here.

HARLOW: Right.

WU: And it's such a commonsense notion really. I mean people should be paid for their work. The fact that you're a so-called essential employee, the way I was in the Justice Department, a lot of times law enforcement people are deemed that. They have to come to work anyway. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be compensated for your work. It's particularly painful around the holidays.

HARLOW: No question about it. But interesting, I'm glad you bring up the 2013 example. I didn't know it was the same law firm that led that, but you know that they won. It was the Obama administration at that point. And the Obama administration, Shan, sought to have that case dismissed. The court disagreed with that and ordered at some point double damages because they found that the federal government by not paying these workers was knowingly violating the FLPA. Do you think the same thing plays out this time?

WU: I think it does. I think the dilemma here is that no contract, and there's obviously a fairly complex bargaining contract between the federal employees and the government. No contract can really sort of have the foresight to figure out the actual shutdown. And the contract itself can't really accept them from the Fair Labor Standards Act because that would be illegal. So you can't have that in the contract.

So they're really kind of in uncharted territory here. And it's a great statement about the government workers that actually you haven't had more about this in the past. Those were designated and essential employees. They feel they have a duty to their country, duty to their institutions and citizens. They just go to work and do it. The plaintiffs here happen to work for the Bureau of Prisons and the very important point they're making is that it's more dangerous for them. I mean it's a skeletal staff going on there, and one of the points they're making is that it actually endangers them in the working environment.

[10:45:08] HARLOW: What about time limits here, right? This is day 11 of the shutdown. Let's all hope that it ends soon, but if it doesn't, I mean, how do you see judges looking at this in terms of time limits, how long, if they do favor, side with the plaintiffs, pay them out for?

WU: I think the longer it goes, the worse it is for the government's defense. Honestly, I'm not sure what kind of defense they can use. If it's something of a short duration, they can say look, it's an emergency situation, no harm, no foul. But the longer it goes, I think the weaker their defense becomes. And it's interesting too, when you think about it, President Trump is hurting the country in two ways by forcing the shutdown. One, of course, he hurts the workers deprived of their checks. But ultimately, if the federal employees win and there's damaged ordered, who is going to pay the damages? Us.

HARLOW: The taxpayer, right?

WU: Exactly.

HARLOW: Who always pays, Shan? Thank you very much and happy New Year.

WU: Happy New Year to you, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. For the second year in a row, the city of Chicago saw a decrease in gun violence and murder. This is according to the Chicago Police Department. There were 100 fewer murders last year than in 2017 and Chicago crime overall in the city, down by 10 percent since 2016. Police say the use of cameras, some of their new technology, is helping officers prevent crime and improve response times. Now despite the falling numbers, still, very problematic for Chicago. The city experienced one of its most violent weekends in 2018 when 66 people were shot, 12 of them fatally. You'll remember that back in August.

Well, today, President Trump's new acting defense secretary starts his first day on the job with no experience in the military or foreign policy. So what qualifications does Patrick Shanahan have to replace James Mattis, even temporarily? We'll go to the Pentagon for more on that.

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[10:46:32] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un says he is still committed to denuclearization but may have to seek a, quote, "new path" if the U.S. continues to make what he deems are one-sided demands. This all came during his annual New Year's address. He railed against U.S. sanctions saying progress would be faster if the U.S. engaged in some give and take. The Trump administration has maintained it will not give ground on those sanctions until North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons. Kim for his part did not elaborate on what he meant by a "new path." The North Korean Leader did say he's ready to meet with President Trump again at any time.

Meantime, according to a new report in "The New York Times," during his surprise visit to Iraq last week, President Trump told the head of U.S. forces fighting ISIS he wants the 2,000 U.S. military personnel that are in Syria out of Syria in about four months. That is significant because it is a different timeline. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me with more. What's the significance here of four months?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, you know there's been a lot of confusion and not a lot of clear answers about exactly what the president want to have happen on what timeframe and what the military is saying it can reasonably do. The military priority is to get the troops out if the president wants that in the most safe, orderly fashion possible with all the force protection that is needed to keep them safe as they withdraw. Ballpark, it could take four months. You begin to hear numbers like that, but they say, you know, they can't commit to that specifically because, again, it depends on security conditions on the ground.

So Mr. Trump is perhaps saying four months, maybe something that he's already hearing from the military. He is also telling Fox News that he never said he was going to rush the troops out of Syria, but in fact, Mr. Trump had indicated in a video posted some days back that he wanted the troops out and that he wanted them out now. Poppy?

HARLOW: Right, right. And I believe that the word he used when the decision broke was rapid. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, important reporting. Thank you very much, and Happy New Year.

STARR: Happy New Year.

HARLOW: Now, to the miracle this morning, a miracle amid tragedy. Take a look at this. You're looking at video of the moment that Russian emergency officials found a baby boy alive, alive in the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed after an explosion yesterday. Look at them pulling this baby out. The baby survived the blast and more than 35 hours in the freezing cold. Authorities believe it was a gas leak that caused the explosion. At least seven people were killed. 36 are missing. But this is a miracle. Wow.

All right, let's end the show on this. For my Minnesota friends on this New Year's Day, right now, it is a brisk negative 3 degrees in Excelsior, Minnesota, but that is not stopping these thrill seekers for jumping into the freezing lake Minnetonka. They call it the ice dive because, folks, the lake is iced over. They had to carve this out for them to jump in. It's an annual event. It started 28 years ago. It's still going strong. It's all for a good cause, raising money for charity. Most of the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.

[10:55:00] It is not only Minnesota nice. It's Minnesota tough. Look at that. Negative 3 degrees today. Good on all of you.

Thank you for being with me on this New Year's morning. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning with the breaking news continues as we learn new details about a retired U.S. Marine from Michigan who is now detained in Russia, accused of being an American spy. Stay with us for the latest.

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[10:59:50] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Kate Bolduan. And welcome to this special edition of AT THIS HOUR. And we have breaking news for you this morning, new details about the U.S. citizen that Russia is accusing of spying. Paul Whelan is a retired U.S. Marine. According to his family, Whelan was in Moscow for a wedding when he was arrested Friday.