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Residents Of Scottsdale Suburb Sue For Access To Water; Egg Prices Soar Across U.S. In "Unprecedented" Crisis; Afghan Soldier Faces Deportation After Arrest AT U.S.-Mexico Border; CDC: Flu Activity Has Peaked, But Virus Is Still Spreading. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 17, 2023 - 10:30   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: A suburb of Scottsdale, Arizona is suing after the bigger city cut off its access to water. For years, Scottsdale has allowed households in Rio Verde Foothills to buy water, but that stopped in January 1st, after a drought and a water source shortage in the Colorado River triggered federal conservation rules.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So now, some residents are hoping a lawsuit will restore access to the water supply.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us with this story. Lucy.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys. Well, these residents are basically hoping to -- for Scottsdale to keep selling water to this community, even though it is not a part of the city. This is a group of residents who claimed that Scottsdale is leaving the Rio Verde Foothills high and dry.

Now, Scottsdale, which gets its water from the dwindling Colorado River essentially says, no, no, no we're in the midst of a drought. There's simply not enough to go around. The mayor issuing a statement saying, quote, there is no Santa Claus. Water is not a compassion game.

Now my team and I spend time in the Rio Verde Foothills as this water cut off deadline was looming. We spoke to many of the residents there, some of whom see themselves as the first domino to fall as this drought crisis deepens. Take a look.


JOHN HORNEWER, OWNER, RIO VERDE FOOTHILLS POTABLE WATER HAULING: There's no question about it. The drought is reality. Rio Verde is the first domino to fall because of the drought that we're in.

KAFANOV: Are people taking it seriously enough?

HORNEWER: They're not. Water is more precious than you realize. And once you go to your faucet and you turn it on and there's no water, then its value becomes real.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAFANOV: Now, this is a small community in the desert on the outskirts of Scottsdale. So it's not within city limits. You have to drive up this dusty road to get there. It's unincorporated which basically means folks don't pay city taxes or get city services like water which people used to really see as a plus, you know, not a lot of government interference. Many would get their water from wells but those wells have been drying up in this mega drought. And so several hundred homes have been relying on hauled water.

You saw the water delivery guy there in my interview, which up until January 1st, was purchased from nearby Scottsdale. But when drought conditions forced the federal government to declare a shortage in the Colorado River, reducing how much water Arizona could use, Scottsdale had to cut off the water deliveries to outside communities like Rio Verde to conserve water to meet its own resident's needs.

So this wasn't a sudden surprise, Rio Verde had more than a year to come up with solutions, but neighbors and politicians couldn't agree on one. Developers, meanwhile, guys, kept building Maricopa County where Rio Verde is a part of, is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation.

And right now in Rio Verde, people are not flushing the toilet or using rainwater to do that. They're not taking showers. And I have to say, this is an example of how climate change is changing life as we know it and what is potentially in store for the rest of us in the southwest, given that our rivers and reservoirs are continuing to shrink. Guys?

GOLODRYGA: Yes. As you said, there is no Santa Claus. And this is happening to communities now that that could perhaps happen to other parts of the country as well.

Lucy Kafanov, you'll keep us posted on how the suit goes. Thank you.

BERMAN: So inflation cooled last month, but prices at the grocery store are still up, egg prices up, 60 percent in the last year.

GOLODRYGA: CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is following this for us. So, Vanessa, there had been an avian flu. What is really the main factor behind this spike?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN Business and politics CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think when all of us go to the grocery store, we get our milk, our bread, and eggs, and we don't really think too much about the prices.

But just in the last year, we've seen a dozen eggs go from about 179 all the way in just the last year to 425. And this is in part because of this deadly avian flu that's killing millions of birds including chickens across the country. It started in the spring, but it's catching up with us now.


YURKEVICH: In chilly Palmer, Alaska, the demand for chickens and their eggs is heating up. DON DYER, OWNER, POLARIS FARM: I was already sold out even before the egg storage. I was -- I was selling everything I had.

YURKEVICH: If you've been to the grocery store recently, you may have noticed fewer eggs and higher prices up about 11 percent last month on average from November, up nearly 60 percent in the last year. 11.49 for a dozen eggs in New York, 10.99 in Hawaii.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's ridiculous for it to be that much.

YURKEVICH: The highly pathogenic avian influenza or avian flu is largely to blame, nearly 58 million birds and climbing have died across 47 states in the last year, a result of the deadly virus. Wild Birds can carry the disease and spread it to domestic flocks when they migrate.


CHELSEA CARRIGAN, OWNER, RED BARN FARM: One wild bird coming into their chicken run, and next thing you know 10 birds, 20 birds, 30 birds. They're just dropping dead.

YURKEVICH: Some states now recommending that all poultry be maintained indoors. Poultry and bird shows, canceled. And biosecurity around chickens strictly enforced.

SARAH SCHNEIDER, OWNER, EGG SHOP: The avian flu is serious.

YURKEVICH: Egg shop with two cafes in New York City is struggling with prices on their main ingredient. The fall migration of wild birds sent avian flu cases spiking again.

SCHNEIDER: We go through 7,000 to 9,000 eggs a week, so it's a significant amount of eggs. And in the last couple of weeks, they've jumped as high as 60 percent.

YURKEVICH: How have you been able to absorb the high price increases of eggs?

SCHNEIDER: Unfortunately, we have raised all of our prices about 10 percent on our menu items.

YURKEVICH: For some, the increased cost is too much. Baked After Dark bakery in Nebraska will close its doors this weekend.

STACEY JOHNSON, OWNER, BAKED AFTER DARK: I think about what our family can afford to pay for a cookie. I take that into consideration. We can't charge $5 a cookie.

YURKEVICH: The ripple effect goes beyond restaurants and bakeries. Take a look around the grocery store. Items that use eggs like mayonnaise are up 11.8 percent in the last year.

ANGELO PULEO, SUPERVISOR, MORTON WILLIAMS SUPERMARKETS: From the flu to the increases in inflation, all combined together with the shortage. It is a perfect storm.

VERA NEWHOUSE, NYC SHOPPER: And they definitely have seen the prices shoot up recently.

YURKEVICH: Does that stop you from making the purchase?

NEWHOUSE: No, not at all. I'm just buying things to make a chicken cutlet and you need eggs as the basis for that too. It's one of the reasons why there's no way not to purchase them.


YURKEVICH: Now some good news this week, the Department of Agriculture says that prices on eggs are dropping a little bit, but supply is still light to moderate. The holiday season really boosted demand. We were all cooking, making a lot of bread, eggnog cookies. So we're through that so demand could soften a little bit.

But the thing to really keep your eye on is this avian flu. You said -- you saw the birds are being kept indoors. No one is allowed to interact with them except for the farmers on site. So if there's another avian flu outbreak, that could be detrimental to prices, but maybe some tempering in the next couple of months.

BERMAN: You have a mayonnaise. I'm very concerned about the mayonnaise prices.

YURKEVICH: I mean, it's like, you know, goes with bread perfectly. But bread is more expensive.

GOLODRYGA: We love mayonnaise. I can't -- yes.

BERMAN: Or with French fries? It's very European. I'm very sophisticated. I'm not sure you guys are aware of that.

All right. Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much. Hopefully --

YURKEVICH: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- these prices go down.

GOLODRYGA: Well, an Afghan national who fought alongside U.S. forces is facing deportation after being detained, after crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. Now many are asking the Biden administration for a pardon. I'll speak with his brother, straight ahead.



GOLODRYGA: Veterans groups and a member of Congress from Texas are now calling on President Biden to help an Afghan soldier jailed in Texas. Abdul Wasi Safi fought alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan but wasn't able to escape when U.S. troops withdrew from the country. Even traveled on foot and by bus through 10 countries, three different continents, to seek asylum in the United States, but he was detained at the U.S.-Mexico border and is now facing the threat of deportation.

Joining me now is his brother, Sami-ullah Safi. Sami, thank you so much for joining us.

I know the clock is ticking here in terms of a date to sentence your brother to possibly even go back to Afghanistan. I know that's your worst fear here. How is your brother doing?

SAMI-ULLAH SAFI, BROTHER OF DETAINED AFGHAN SOLDIER ABDUL WASI SAFI: My brother is currently very disappointed because of how he's being treated by the same very country that he fought alongside in the most difficult moments of his life and the most critical situations of Afghanistan.

GOLODRYGA: We should note that both you and your brother helped the U.S. military. You worked as an interpreter and came to the United States in 2015 under a Special Immigrant Visa. Your brother stayed in Afghanistan and just left in 2021. Did he apply for an SIV as well?

SAFI: He was working as a Special Force officer. And so he was not directly working for United States military. He was part of Afghanistan military. And for that reason, he was not qualified for SIV. That's why he could not apply for SIV.

GOLODRYGA: Now, he was detained at the border in the fall. As we noted, some veterans groups and now Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, which represents the city where you are in Houston, have now advocated for his release and for his pardon. She is calling on the White House to step in. Have you been in any communication with the White House? Have you heard from officials at all?


SAFI: Unfortunately, I have not heard any response back from the White House regarding my brother's situation, even though we provided all the appropriate documents of his service, working alongside the United States Special Forces in Afghanistan. But, unfortunately, I have not been able to hear any respond back even though multiple veteran groups and the Congress, men and women have signed letters and sent it to the president. But, unfortunately, none of those requests have been responded back by the White House.

GOLODRYGA: How does your brother feel about that lack of communication? And I guess my larger question is, why was it so important for him and for you to work alongside the U.S. military there in Afghanistan?

SAFI: Me and my brother, we risk our safety and our family's safety working alongside United States military. And I'm sure everyone who hears us knows how difficult and challenging it is to work in a country such Afghanistan with the United States government.

I worked for 10 years, from 2010 to August of 2020 as translator in different parts of Afghanistan. And my brother graduated from Officers Academy in 2018 after receiving combat training from United States Special Forces. He started his job as an intelligence officer for Special Force commando in Afghanistan. But unfortunately, when he arrived into the southern border, after providing all the appropriate documents, he was taken into custody and charged criminally for crossing the border.

GOLODRYGA: And we were just looking at photos of your brother, they're working alongside the U.S. military at various points in Afghanistan.

If somebody in the White House, if the President is watching this, what message do you want to send about your brother and why it's so important for you to have him released?

SAFI: My message would be, Mr. President, my brother is not a criminal. He's not a gang member nor a drug dealer. He came to this country because he had no other option. After the collapse of Afghanistan, the hunt for his life started by the Taliban. He was not going to survive just like so many of his friends were captured and killed for working alongside United States Special Forces. So he came to the very country who promised that we will never leave our allies behind. And he came to this country with the hopes of that his service will be valued by this country that he served alongside.

But unfortunately, after arriving, he faces deportation to the country that has no other outcome, but to get him captured and killed. So I'm pleading to the president and those who have authorities over this matter to please intervene, step up and do the right thing as it was promised.

GOLODRYGA: Sami, thank you so much for your time and telling us about your brother. Thank you and your brother, both for your service to this country and our military and please keep us posted on his case. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: So the flu appears to have peaked in the United States, but that doesn't mean the season is over yet. And the CDC is warning the virus still poses a threat.



BERMAN: So health experts say flu activity here in the United States may have peaked early, but the CDC warns cases are still high and the flu is still spreading.

GOLODRYGA: CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard joins us now. So, Jacqueline, where are we now in the flu season? It's a good thing that things peaked early perhaps.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's right, Bianna. We are seeing declines in most areas when it comes to flu activity, but the takeaway message here is that the flu season is not over yet. We are still seeing significant levels of flu activity.

And when you look at the numbers, here's where we are now. So far this season, there have been at least 24 million illnesses, 260,000 hospitalizations, and sadly 16,000 lives lost to flu so far this season. Among those deaths, 79 were in children.


And that's what stands out the most to me. It's so significant when you see these deaths in children. And we know that flu infection can turn deadly quickly. And our youngest of kids. I spoke with a mother in Virginia who told me that in 2014, she lost her 3-year-old daughter to flu, and her daughter's symptoms progressed within two days, 48 hours, leading to mucus filled in her lungs and leading to sadly that life lost.

And so the takeaway here because flu activity can last all the way up to May, it's important to still get your flu vaccine, if you haven't already. And again, we're still seeing activity that we're going to watch closely in the coming months. Bianna and John.

BERMAN: Get the vaccine, stay home if you're sick. Take it seriously. Flu can be very --

HOWARD: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- very serious.

Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much.

GOLODRYGA: And thank you all for joining us today. It's been fun with you.

BERMAN: It's been great.

GOLODRYGA: Join again tomorrow?

BERMAN: Let's do it.

GOLODRYGA: Let's do it.

I'm Bianna Golodryga.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts after a quick break.