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Rabbi Describes Moment Hostages Were Able To Escape; FBI: TX Synagogue Hostage Situation "Terror-Related"; DHS Working With Congress To Increase Funding For Faith-Based Communities To Upgrade Security, Protect Against Terror And Hate Crimes; Djokovic Returns To Serbia After Losing Visa Appeal In Australia; France's Strict Vaccine Requirements Could Jeopardize Djokovic's Chance To Play In French Open; Winter Olympic Tickets Won't Be Sold To Public Because Of COVID; Efforts To Get Omicron Under Control. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 14:30   ET




RABBI CHARLIE CYTRON-WALKER, CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL: We were terrified. And when I saw an opportunity, where he wasn't in a good position, I asked -- made sure that the two gentleman who were still with me, that they were ready to go.

The exit wasn't too far away. I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman and I headed for the door.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The family of the suspect also released a statement saying they do not condone any of his actions, wholeheartedly apologized to the people here.

And mentioned that the suspect had mental health issues but would not elaborate on that.

We also know that he spent a few nights here in a Dallas homeless shelter before this incident.

So investigators still working through a lot of this -- Victor?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Still a lot of questions to be answered.

Natasha Chen, for us in Texas, thank you so much.

Brad Orsini is the senior national security adviser for the Secure Community Network. He's also a former FBI supervisory special agent.

Brad, good to have you.

In reading up on the training that the rabbi had from your organization, it really is just a sad sign of the times that clergy, a rabbi, leadership of a synagogue, that they need training from the FBI, from DHS, from an organization like yours. BRADLEY ORSINI, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, SECURITY COMMUNITY

NETWORK: Victor, first of all, thank you for having me on.

Yes, it is a sad day when we have to conduct active-shooter training at our houses of worship across the country.

We, in particular, in the Jewish community have felt that since Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City and the attack in Muncie where he lost members of our community to violent extremism.

And we have really pushed a robust training program for the Jewish community across the United States.

And we're very fortunate to have one of our colleagues in Fort Worth conducting that training on August 22, 2021, prior to the incident on Saturday.

BLACKWELL: And the rabbi pointed to the training when you're in that moment do whatever you have to do to protect those who you are in charge of protecting.

Let me ask you about, we heard from the Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, who said that the administration is going to work with Congress to get more resources to get upgraded security for houses of worship.

What is needed?

ORSINI: So we in the faith-based community, especially the Jewish community, we rely on the federal government and the grant program from the Non-Security Grant Program each year.

Each year, that grant has been moving up from $20 million to $50 million to $90 million to $180 million last year to help target-harden our facilities.

We spend a lot of time in the Jewish community doing threat and vulnerability assessments.

And unfortunately, we have to target-harden our facilities to ensure that our community members are, our congregants could go to services and feel as safe as possible.

I know Secretary Mayorkas and other law enforcement officials we work with on a daily basis to make that happen.

But we work with our leaders in the community to bring that awareness so we could increase that funding for our community.

BLACKWELL: I know you're the security guy. And what we're talking about is funding for hardening targets, for lack of a better term.

But that is the back end of it. That is when said terrorist or potential shooter is en route, and how do you protect the people inside.

I know there's no line item to change hearts and minds. You could put on a budget.

But what is the front-end protection that needs to happen so that there are fewer incidents that needed -- that need protection against?

ORSINI: A heightened awareness in our community. Our community cannot afford to dismiss signs of hate, suspicious activity or anomalies that they see within their community.

It is paramount that effective communities, like the Jewish community, report the signs of hate so we can work with law enforcement to hopefully mitigate the next attack. And we do that on a daily basis.

Our organization, Secure Community Network, has a 24-hour a day, seven day a week intelligence center.

Where our intelligence analysts are collecting information, assessing and working with law enforcement at the highest levels and the FBI and state and local officials to mitigate those threats on a daily basis.

BLACKWELL: And, Brad, I covered the Tree of Life shooting at the synagogue that you mentioned earlier.

And what I did not know and I learned then, I believe it was 2018, was that these are, what we're talking about now, these are the attacks that make news.


But there's vandalism and graffiti and physical attacks on the street that happen far more often than I think most people can appreciate.

ORSINI: We've seen an incredible rise in anti-Semitism. We've seen an incredible rise of vandalism and attacks on our community, of physical attack on our community members. It happens routinely.

We really encourage our community to get the training, like the rabbi had.

And so when we talk about things we can do, it is that awareness training, it is a countering act of threat training that we have to prepare our community.

And it is unfortunate we have to do that but we will continue to make preparedness our number-one priority in our community.

BLACKWELL: Brad Orsini, thank you for the insight and thank you for your time.

ORSINI: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me on.

BLACKWELL: All right.

The 2022 Winter Olympics will now be an invite-only event. The Chinese government ditches previous plans to sell tickets to the general public because of the latest COVID surge. We have a live update ahead.



BLACKWELL: The Australian Open has begun without the world's number- one men's tennis player, Novak Djokovic.

He arrived in Belgrade, Serbia, today unable to defend his title in the open after a rollercoaster legal battle over his vaccination status. He was deported from Australia on Sunday.

CNN's Scott McLean is live in Belgrade.

So, Scott, he's not just out for this tournament, for the 2022 Australian Open, this could go on for years?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Victor. Because his deportation order was upheld by the court, the three-year ban automatically applies.

The Home Affairs minister in Australia did say that hypothetically there may be some convincing reasons to overturn that ban in the future. So that's probably not a done deal.

But Djokovic might want to think about whether he gets vaccinated in the future.

Because, right now, as it stands, he would not be able to participate in the French Open and defend his title there.

That's because the French sports minister told CNN today there's no exception to the French vaccine pass law, which requires people to show proof of vaccination to get into restaurants, bars, theaters and sporting venues as well.

And that is not just for the spectators. That is for the athletes as well.

The French president had previously said his aim was to piss off the unvaccinated and he's likely succeeded in at least making one particular unvaccinated Serb think hard about his decision making.

Today, at the airport, he got a hero's welcome. There were people there with banners and flags to try to catch a glimpse of Djokovic and show their support.

His treatment in Australia has been almost universally condemned, from both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated, and from the man on the street to the president of the country.



ALEKSANDAR VUCIC, SERBIAN PRESIDENT: They think they have, by this, this mistreatment of 10 days, humiliated Djokovic but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high and look everyone in the eye.


MCLEAN: Now if you're paying attention to the core case, it seems like the Australian government was trying to frame Djokovic as this anti- vaxxer. But if you ask people here, that is not how they see him in the slightest.

Djokovic has said very little on the topic. And most ordinary Serbs don't seem bothered either way.

Most people will tell you that when it comes to vaccination, even those who have been vaccinated and want others to get vaccinated, they say it is a personal choice.

And quickly, Victor, Djokovic may also have some issue with his sponsors. La Cost, in particular, has asked to speak with him as soon as they can about this whole Australian debacle.

BLACKWELL: All right, it continues.

Scott McLean, for us in Belgrade, thank you.

Just a couple of weeks now until the Winter Olympics in Beijing and officials just announced they will not sell tickets to the general public because of surge in COVID cases.

CNN international correspondent, Selina Wang, joins us live from Tokyo.

If tickets aren't being sold to the general public, who will be there to watch the games?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, international fans have already been banned from the games. And now residents in China cannot purchase tickets to the Winter Olympics either.

Instead, Chinese authorities will be choosing who could go to the games. Now at this point, we don't know who will be chosen, how they're

choosing them, or how many could come.

But what we do know is that anyone attending games as a spectator have to follow strict COVID rules before, during and after the games. That is part of the extraordinary restrictions COVID-19 counter measures.

I'll be traveling to Beijing in a couple of weeks. But I have to track my daily health stats in an Olympic health app.

Once I enter this massive Olympi bubble in Beijing, I'll be PCR tested daily, along with the thousands of other participants, and will be kept separate from the rest of the population the entirety of the games.

Anyone showing up unvaccinated will have to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival.

Victor, get this, for the local Chinese staff and volunteers at the games, they have to quarantine for 21 days in China before returning to their families and their homes in China -- Victor?



Tell us about this first case of the Omicron variant there that has been recorded in Beijing?

WANG: Well, Victor, in China, even one COVID case is one too many. Officials in Beijing on high alert after reporting over the weekend a case of a woman who was infected with Omicron.

Immediately after this was reported, they locked down the office where she works in. They sealed off her residential compound.

They figured out where she had been in great detail over the past 14 days and tested thousands of people with links to the places that she had been to.

Now, she hadn't traveled out of Beijing recently. They didn't see any confirmed contact.

And authorities are now saying that she might have gotten Omicron from a package she had ordered internationally from Canada.

Now it is extremely important to note here that China has repeatedly said several times throughout the pandemic that cases could have come into its borders through packages imported.

This is part of the narrative that the virus is getting brought in from abroad.

This is despite health experts from around the world saying that risk of transmission from surfaces is extremely low -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Yes. We've had medical analysts on for a year and a half now, haven't heard of a package bringing it in.

Selina Wang, thank you so much.

Israel just announced results of a study on the effectiveness of a fourth vaccine dose against the Omicron variant. We have details on that next.



BLACKWELL: New data from an Israeli study finds that while a fourth dose of a vaccine boosts antibodies that fight the virus, it may not be enough to protect against infection from the Omicron variant.

CNN's Nick Watt has more with the latest efforts to get it under control.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): The COVID forecast is improving, looking better. The COVID clouds are parting.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In New York, average daily infections plummeted about 40 percent in just a week.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace. The Omicron wave started later in other parts of the country so we shouldn't expect a national peak in the next coming days. The next few weeks will be tough.

WATT: After Christmas, nationwide, we were averaging 200,000 new infections every day as Omicron took hold.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is that a number that you think could reach half a million soon?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, it's possible, Kaitlan. I don't think it will but you never can tell.

WATT: Saturday, average infections topped 800,000 for the first time. Look at that graph. This is record territory. Previous waves not even close.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We're almost there. I really do think within the next, say, three to four to five weeks, you're going to see a dramatic decline in the incidents of this illness.

And presumably, next winter, we'll see somewhat of a surge less than this surge.

WATT: The CDC says the infected can end isolation if fever free just five days after a positive test, when a study of infections in the NBA suggests more than a third are probably still infectious.

"Ending isolation at day five should include a negative rapid antigen test," tweeted one of the researchers. "Why do all the work to identify infections if we are going to just let them go back to work while still potentially infectious?"

As so many schools struggle to stay open, Virginia's new governor will ban school mask mandates. A few districts say they will defy him.

GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): We will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents' rights are protected.


WATT: And we heard this morning that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has tested positive for COVID-19. He was fully vaccinated and boosted. We're told is suffering very minor symptoms and working remotely.

Now, he last met with President Biden on Wednesday, and Milley crucially tested negative both before and after that meeting with the president.

But one other Joint Chief has tested positive, the commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Nick Watt, thank you.

Italian police have arrested a nurse in Palermo for allegedly pretending to give COVID-19 shots to people who didn't want to be vaccinated.

Listen to this and look at this video. Investigators say this hidden camera video shows the nurse loading a dose of vaccine, and then emptying the syringe in gauze before pretending to inject several people.

And police say people who got these fake shots were able to then fraudulently get official COVID passes and that allowed them to travel and go into public places where being vaccinated is mandatory.


We don't do a lot of train burglary or train robbery stories because they don't happen often, but thieves in California looted trains there. Up next, how your package order may be impacted.


BLACKWELL: If you are missing your package from Amazon or FedEx or UPS, maybe it's here, in Los Angeles.

Look at this. This video has gone viral. Thieves have been breaking into and ransacking train cars and leaving behind a mess like this.


Union Pacific wrote the L.A. D.A. last month saying there's been a 160 percent increase in theft from the previous year and it may stop operating in Los Angeles County as a response.

Over the weekend, 17 train cars derailed near that mess. No one, fortunately, was hurt.

Prince Harry is challenging a U.K. decision that prevents him from personally paying for police protection while in Britain.