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Doctor in Houston Handing Out Thousands of Masks as Omicron Surges; Jan. 6 Panel Looks to Interview for Trump Ally Rep. Jim Jordan; Perfectly Preserved Baby Dinosaur Discovered Inside Its Egg. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 23, 2021 - 08:30   ET



DR. CEDRIC DARK, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN & ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: A lot of people have been using either cloth masks, or gators, sometimes surgical masks. And to upgrade your mask, especially in light of the increased contagiousness of omicron, people were really happy to be able to receive them.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: There were questions from the beginning really since the start of the pandemic about what impact it may have had if masks were sent out to every household in the U.S. Passing them out like this, do you think that starts to hopefully make the masks a little bit less political, especially in your state?

DARK: I really would hope so. One of the easiest things you can do as an individual and as a family to protect yourself and your loved ones is to wear a mask. This is in addition to the other mitigation methods out there such as getting your vaccination, getting your boosters, and even simple things like deciding to stay home sometimes.

Right now, as cases spike, you may want to reconsider whether you go out to a restaurant, a movie or other public places. You know, if your state is not going to allow masking in public spaces, at least you have the choice and the option to do that for yourself because we know that masks will save lives by reducing the spread of this disease.

HILL: Yeah, it's a little thing that can have a big impact. We've been talking so much over the last nearly two years now, so much with health experts and doctors and staff and medical facilities like yourself as we watched this journey. So I found it interesting to hear on Twitter you said I never had this many colleagues who told me they're COVID positive at any time like this during the pandemic.

The fact that you're seeing so many more infections including among your colleagues, how are you dealing with that?

DARK: Well, I just left shift because of the fact that there are outbreaks occurring. Everyone in our department is actually taking COVID tests this week. I just got my swab. So we'll see whether or not I'm an asymptomatic carrier of the disease or if I'm clear, which is good to know because I'll be meeting with family for the holiday. And it's -- the best thing to be able to do is make sure I'm not symptomatic, and number two, if I'm not, also to make sure I'm not asymptomatically carrying the disease if at all possible.

But it's actually fairly startling right now that we're seeing this increase number in cases. And it's not just people that are asymptomatic, it's people that have symptoms as well. And fortunately, because a lot of my colleagues are vaccinated, those symptoms are fairly mild. We still know that there is a real terrible risk for people that are unvaccinated in terms of their likelihood of proceeding to be just a case of COVID to someone that has to be hospitalized or winding up in an ICU or dying.

And really don't want to see that. So, again, I want to reiterate to everyone that's listening, for you and your family, the best thing you can do is get vaccinated and then after that, just to have layers of mitigation and to reduce your risks by wearing masks and avoiding crowded places.

HILL: We're all hearing how important testing it. It will let you know where you stand before you meet with family. But tests are hard to come by across the country. Is that easing where you are in Texas or is it still a challenge for folks to get a test?

DARK: It still is a pretty challenging thing. I spoke to a couple people who have been looking around for some. It's very difficult. The tests I have over my shoulder here I bought several months ago in anticipation of if, you know, I ever came down with something to test at home and not necessarily have to risk infecting anybody at work or out in the community.

But again -- I'm glad to hear the Biden administration is finally deciding to send these tests out to Americans, but they also ought to consider sending out high-quality N95 masks. The supply chain is in a much better position than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. And so, there's no reason that the administration should not be sending out these high quality medical grade masks to every American household.

HILL: We'll see if they're listening to you.

Dr. Cedric Dark, great to have you with us. Thanks for everything you're doing and happy holidays.

DARK: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: The January 6th committee targeting top Trump defender Jim Jordan. So, what happens if he decides he doesn't want to talk? That's next.

BERMAN: And a fossilized egg found after 70 million years. Just look at this. Look at the condition it's in. What it could tell us about dinosaurs and today's birds.



BERMAN: The January 6th Select Committee has its eyes set on one of former President Trump's top allies in Congress. The committee wants to speak with Republican Congressman Jim Jordan about possible communications he had with Trump and the administration on January 6th. We know Jordan reached out to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows the day before the attack with a theory on how to overturn the election results.

Joining us now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams.

So, Jim, Jordan admits he wrote to Mark Meadows outlining how Pence could get in the way of the Electoral College results. We know that Jim Jordan admits to having a phone call with the former president on the day of the insurrection. How important is his testimony?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, you know, John, the critical thing here is everyone's testimony is important but you have to remember they already interviewed hundreds of people, subpoenaed and had access to documents and phone records.


No one individual's testimony is going to make or break the case. That's how investigations generally are. We focus on the big fish, but at the end of the day, they have a lot there. Now, look, Jim Jordan can fill in some of the gaps that are going to appear on these documents and he's a central figure and someone that America needs to hear from. Now, whether they can actually get him to show up, that's an open question.

HILL: That is an open question, he has said in the past, of course, he has nothing to hide, which would rationally lead one to believe that if there's nothing to hide, why not talk.

I wonder if you think there's anything to read, though, from the timing of this. If we're at the point now where the committee is saying to Jim Jordan, hey, come in and have a chat with us. Does that tell you that they're closer to -- I don't know. I don't want to say wrapping things up, because I don't think we're there, but it's interesting given that you know the blow back there's going to be.

WILLIAMS: Well, look, everyone knows the timeline here. They have to wrap this up by the middle of next year because it's an election year and they want to move on with it.

And the interesting thing with asking him to come in, if the committee wants to go down the road of recently subpoenaed him, their hand is strengthened if they politely ask him first, because they can then go to court and say, you know, look, your honor, we tried everything. We sent him a letter. We called him and we spoke to his attorney.

They're just building a case here. Now, look, I want to be clear, it's very unprecedented to go after other members of Congress. We'll see how much of an appetite this committee has for being that aggressive.

BERMAN: Yeah, the subpoena would sort of break new ground there on the part of Bennie Thompson, the chairman. But, you know, Jim Jordan has a different set of calculations and now he response also because Jordan is set up to be chair of the House Judiciary Committee if Republicans take over.

So, if he says no, you know, what's to keep every human being ever called before the Judiciary Committee if and when he's chairman from saying, no, thanks, you didn't do it, why should I?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, that's a perfect question, John, and number one, that's looking forward at the future. He'll in all likelihood be the chair of the Judiciary Committee. He's also the past jobs he's had where number, top Republican on the judiciary committee and top Republican on the House Oversight Committee.

Basically what this guy's career has been doing is issuing subpoenas to people. And so, it would be quite an odd shift from that. Par for the course, but certainly odd for him to now say the same committee or the same type of committee I've been working for my entire career and issued subpoenas on behalf of, I'm just not going to obey one because I think this one happens to be stupid, unlike all the other ones I issued before.

BERMAN: So, Elliot, not only are you an accomplished attorney, but it turns out you're a really good cook or baker. I mean, really. And you're doing this new video series for CNN called "Knead to Know", that's K-N-E-A-D, knead to know. And not only do you cook what looks like delicious things, but while you're baking, you explain serious issues that are affecting the country right now.

I just want to play a part of your series "Knead to Know".


WILLIAMS: Thinking about critical race theory, stay with me for a second and how it became such a controversial issue. Critical race theory is simply a way that law professors came up with a way at looking at how America's history of discrimination affects the country.

For instance, you can't really understand drug policy or prison reform without knowing how slavery and racism shaped policing in America. Kind of like how you won't understand how this cake is made until you see how I put it together. Look --


BERMAN: All right. A, what kind of cake is that? But, B, Elliot, what gave you the idea to do this?

WILLIAMS: Right. Look, what kind of cake is it? It's a rainbow six- layer cake, dyed for my daughter's birthday into the colors of the rainbow. Look, she's a little girl. She likes rainbows.

But what gave me the idea, it's mesmerizing images. I acknowledge it's sort of interesting to watch somebody put something together and it reaches people on issues that are very important. That's part of it, and also, I think I'm just gunning for the title of cheap baking correspondent for CNN NEW DAY. That's really what this comes to, John.

HILL: Listen, I don't know that you have a lot of competition. I have zero votes here, if I did, I would totally vote for that. The cake looks amazing. So, you know, feel free to send it up this way.

I love the videos, because to your point, when you're breaking things down in this way, you make it so relatable. Here are the ingredients that gets us to the end result. What's the reaction been?

WILLIAMS: You know, people are finding it interesting because a lot of times people are saying, look, I can't listen to what you're saying because I'm watching the images because they're engaging and fun to watch. Maybe that's some of the point. You can bring in audiences by giving them things they find interesting.


Well, today -- you know, critical race theory is a controversial issue. I take a view on it. Many of the people may disagree with me.

Today's -- the one that just dropped a few moments ago actually is on drug reform. I'm making brownies, chocolate brownies, and I'm talking about drug reform and the need to reform our system in a way that people across the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats are starting to wake up to. You know, it's just a way of thinking about things while doing something sort of fun.

BERMAN: It's kind of awesome and delicious at the same time.

Elliot Williams, thank you so much. Have a wonderful holiday.

WILLIAMS: Take care. Merry Christmas. I will send you cake, both of you. Thank you.

BERMAN: Win. It's a win.

HILL: We're in.

BERMAN: All right. Other news this morning, a major industrial accident at an Exxon-Mobil refinery outside of Houston. Several people reported injured. We're going to bring you the latest.

HILL: But, first, what ancient secrets can a 70 million-year-old dinosaur egg hold? A paleontologist will tell us all about this rare find, next.


HILL: It is an unprecedented find. It perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo inside its egg that dates back some 70 million years. Researchers were stunned. It was uncovered in China. The fossilized egg actually contains one of the most complete dinosaur embryos ever unearthed.

So what can we learn from it? Let's ask Stephen Brusatte. He's a paleontologist and professor of University of Edinburgh, part of the small team of international researchers that's been studying this little baby dinosaur fossil.

This is -- we're kind of obsessed with it, I have to be honest. This is so cool. It's also incredibly informative for you.

When you first learned that you would be able to study this, what was your reaction?

STEPHEN BRUSATTE, PALEONTOLOGIST AND PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH: Well, I'm obsessed about it too because this is just the most exquisite fossil. And I remember it was right before the pandemic started. I was sent some images of this by my colleagues in China. When I opened those images, I was just blown away because this is a baby dinosaur inside of its egg just getting ready to hatch and it was captured in stone as this fossil.

We just don't have any other fossils quite like this. So to me this is really like -- almost like an ultra sounding image we might have of a human baby. It's there. This fossil showing a little baby dinosaur just getting ready to emerge into the world.

BERMAN: I have to say, I find the images mesmerizing because it's in perfect condition. You can see the tiny, fragile bone structure right there.

What have you learned from seeing this in such detail?

BRUSATTE: The detail is incredible. And when you just think about the odds to have a fossil of a baby dinosaur inside of its egg, this egg is about 6, 7 inches long, it's a delicate little thing. To have that preserved for 70 million years is astounding.

And not only is it this one in a billion fossil, it's quite an important fossil because it tells us a lot about how dinosaurs reproduce, how they developed, how they grew. When you look at these images, this gorgeous artwork my colleagues in China and Canada put together, this is a baby dinosaur inside its egg. It looks like a bird.

And if you blinked you might think it's a chicken or sparrow. That's because it has the exact same posture in the egg. Its head is curled up underneath its arms. That's the same posture birds have in their eggs, and it's all about getting ready to develop so the head is in the right position to break through the egg so it can be a successful hatch.

HILL: So, did this confirm your earlier research or some of what we knew about the progression from dinosaur to birds?

BRUSATTE: It did and that's what's really neat. A couple of years ago, I wrote a book "The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs" behind me. But there's a whole chapter about the dinosaur/bird connection. We've known this going all the way back to the time of Darwin, that there was some special relationship between dinosaur and birds.

But just over the last couple of decades, we have started to find fossils of dinosaurs covered in feathers showing that things like feathers and wings and wishbones and beaks and all of these things we think of as characteristic features of birds actually evolved tens, hundreds of millions of years ago in their dinosaur ancestors, in T- Rex type of dinosaurs. Now we can add this one to the list.

We now know that some dinosaurs, maybe even many dinosaurs, even developed in their eggs just like birds today. And I think that makes them so relatable. I think when you look at a fossil like this, you're not seeing a movie monster. You're not seeing some colossal primeval beast, you're seeing an animal that was growing, that was developing and that gives us a sense for dinosaurs as real living, breathing, growing animals that ruled our world so long ago.

BERMAN: Your enthusiasm is infectious here.

Look, we've all seen "Jurassic Park." How is it that this egg is so perfectly preserved? It wasn't amber, which is what it was in the movie. Do you know?

BRUSATTE: It's a great question. It seems to be a one-in-a-billion type preservation. What seems to have happened, this egg was probably in a nest. Its parents probably would have been protecting those eggs. We know from other fossils that these types of dinosaurs were very caring parents. And it looks like there was a mudslide that just wiped this egg away and it buried this egg within a couple of days before it would have hatched and it very sadly for this dinosaur encased the egg in stone. But for us it was preserved as a fossil and 70 million years later, here we are, we get to study it.

BERMAN: Professor Stephen Brusatte, all I have to say is I wish I had you as a science teacher. Honest to God, thank you so much for being with us and explaining this and sharing your enthusiasm with us.

BRUSATTE: Thank you. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, everybody.

BERMAN: You, too.

HILL: You, too.

BERMAN: All right. Here's what else to watch today.



HILL: The latest addition to the COVID-19 toolbox, Pfizer's antiviral pill now FDA approved. So, just how much of a game-changer is this?

BERMAN: And Spider-Man makes good on a promise and a boy's dream comes true.



UUNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys set? You ready? Here we go. 3, 2 --


BERMAN: That is Spider-Man's Tom Holland making good on a promise he made to a real-life super hero, Bridger Walker, getting a lift in full costume. Last year when Bridger was 6, he was gravely injured by a dog after stepping in to save his little sister.

Holland promises to bring him to the Spider-Man set, and, boy, did he deliver.

What a Christmas present.

HILL: How cool is that?

BERMAN: That's so cool.

Congratulations to all of them.

All right, CNN's coverage continues right now.