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CNN NEWSROOM

NRA Breaks Silence On Newtown; Finding The Shooter's Motive; Mexico Frees Former U.S. Marine; 10 Days to Reach A Deal; Gift Ideas For Last-Minute Shoppers; Boston Cop Rescues Drowning Woman; Winter Storm Races East

Aired December 22, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN: It's the top of the hour, and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Miguel Marquez, in for Fredricka Whitfield.

The National Rifle Association is finally speaking out about the massacre at Newtown. The group isn't addressing the idea of banning or limiting the guns used to kill the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. Instead, they say the answer is deploying armed guards at schools.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Not surprisingly, some politicians were quick to slam the proposal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The NRA, I would say that they were tone deaf, but it's beyond that. They're just deaf. I mean, they have completely ignored, don't understand, don't grasp how deeply wounded this nation was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti joins us from New York while the politicians and NRA are jousting what everyday people say about this debate now that we finally have heard from the NRA, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Miguel, some of the strongest reaction, not surprisingly, I'm sure, coming from the people who live in Newtown, Connecticut.

That entire community touched by a tragedy when a shooter blasted his way into a school, past the security system, to kill so many people, 26 children and adults. This is what most people said in Newtown. Not impressed with the NRA's proposal. MARQUEZ: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY DELEO, CONNECTICUT RESIDENT: I think that's absolutely ridiculous. I'm a retired school teacher. I would -- you know, how could someone expect that armed guards would, you know, maybe a pistol, just go up against something like a Bushmaster, which we saw here happen is absolutely ridiculous. That's the NRA's way to protect their own situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Frankly, that seems to be the main theme nationwide. However, not everyone agrees. We talked with some people in California who supported NRA's proposal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY DEL RIO, L.A. RIFLE AND REVOLVER CLUB: I think it's a good idea, but you're going to have to train these people how to use weapons. Because once you start shooting inside a classroom, someone is going to get hurt. But the thing is not to let the intruder go into the classroom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Of course, is one idea exclusive of the other? Can you rule out having an assault weapon ban, and also have armed security guards or police officers in every school? Perhaps both ideas would work -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Yes, you were one of the first reporters on the scene, a week ago. As hard as it is, we know life has to go on. How are they coping with all of this a week after the fact?

CANDIOTTI: Well, you can imagine. You know, who can say whether this town will ever be able to get over it? Obviously, this tragedy will always be linked to Newtown, Connecticut. Of course, everyone is pulling together to try to get through this.

And they know as much as anyone else does that what happened in their own backyard may be enough to prompt permanent change. A tipping point, as it were, to come up with a permanent solution to this kind of thing. Clearly, things cannot remain the same. That's what everyone seems to agree -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: And the investigation, Susan? The search obviously for a motive, if one can ever be found that would satisfy. But have investigators been able to ascertain anything from the shooter's computer?

CANDIOTTI: Well, that's certainly one of the main areas of concentration. FBI investigators are trying to piece together that hard drive. The computer was smashed by the shooter in this case. And they're also trying to see whether there is any imprint of the shooter at all on the internet. Was he an online gamer? Did he flag anyone what his intentions were. They continue to talk to family, friends, a family doctor, to see what was going on in his mind.

MARQUEZ: Susan, thank you very, very much. I know it's a very tough story to cover. Hope you're doing all right.

CANDIOTTI: Sure.

MARQUEZ: Overseas now, Russia's foreign minister says Syria has consolidated all its chemical weapons into one place. Russia says the move is an attempt to calm fears those weapons could end up, quote, "in the wrong hands."

Meanwhile, more violence today across Syria, 30 people died, according to opposition activists. One, a car bomb exploded in a Damascus neighborhood. No one claimed responsibility for the car bomb. It's been called a terrorist explosion.

A former U.S. Marine is out of a Mexican prison today. Jon Hammar spent four months locked up, sometimes chained to a bed on questionable gun charges. Hammar was on his way to Costa Rica to go surfing just out of the Marine Corp when he was arrested back in August. Mexican authorities say the antique gun in his vehicle violated their gun laws. Hammar was finally freed after U.S. officials intervened.

It is worse than a lump of coal in ye old Christmas stocking, higher taxes. Lawmakers and President Obama have left Washington for Christmas with no deal on tax cuts and spending cuts -- tax hikes and spending cuts that could go in effect the first of the year.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is live in Hawaii where the president is spending the Christmas holiday. Brianna, aloha, where do we go from here?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aloha to you, Miguel. This will be a working Christmas vacation for President Obama. The Senate will reconvene December 27th, so after Christmas.

And up until that time, it's up to President Obama to try to work out a deal with the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, as well as the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell to avert tax hikes going into effect at the New Year.

The president wants them for those making $250,000 or less to remain in effect and to go up beyond there. But he'll need to work out something presumably that would be able to pass the Senate.

And then presumably the House with some Democratic support, as well as Republican support. And listen to what the president said last night. He's holding out hope this can be done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want. And this is not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn't. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, the effort to get some sort of big package put together here to deal with the long-term fiscal health of the country dealing with entitlement reform and tax reform in addition to these tax cuts and spending cuts, Miguel, that gets pushed off at this point.

Who knows when, and it's really this issue of trying to deal with the tax cuts. And the president wants to make sure unemployment benefits are extended for unemployed Americans. -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: I'm not hearing a lot of hope in your voice. If this thing does not pass by January 1st, are all Americans across the board going to see taxes jacked up in their paychecks?

KEILAR: No, I will say, I really do think that there is still time to get something done to avert the tax cuts. I think that's the expectation. But if the fiscal cliff is to be hit, you wouldn't see on a paycheck taxes -- you wouldn't see that affected, necessarily, January 1.

Payroll processors will wait for some time because even if the fiscal cliff hits, there would be tremendous pressure on Washington to deal with that. And sort of fix it retroactively.

So payroll processors may wait, if it were to remain permanent, though, that fiscal cliff, you would see it impact paychecks probably late January, early February. That's the expectation.

MARQUEZ: That is a very thin silver lining around that very dark cloud. What does the president and his family up to in Hawaii?

KEILAR: Nothing public on the schedule right now. We know -- there are some things he normally does, he'll go out normally for shaved ice with his daughters near the home Kayluha where they're staying or have dinner with his half sister Maya.

The one thing on his schedule is the funeral tomorrow for Senator Inouye, the longest-serving member of Congress. As you know, there was a funeral in Washington, D.C., but there is one here in his native Hawaii, as well.

A cemetery not far from where we are right now in Honolulu and President Obama will be there tomorrow afternoon to pay his respects.

MARQUEZ: Senator Inouye, a tough and lovely man. Thank you very much, Brianna. I hope you get a little vacation time there yourself.

The fiscal cliff isn't the only -- only American problem. We'll hear in a minute why it might be the fall heard around the world.

And a Boston cop springs into action. We'll show the rescue that went down in Boston harbor. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUEZ: Lawmakers and President Obama have left Washington for Christmas with no deal on the fiscal cliff. But even though Americans are the ones facing the brunt of it, countries around the world are paying attention to what's happening in Washington.

Recently our Deborah Feyerick spoke with Zanny Minton Beddoes, she is the economics editor for "The Economist" magazine. Deb asked her why it matters beyond U.S. borders.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, ECONOMICS EDITOR, "THE ECONOMIST": There are really two main channels through which this affects the rest of the world. The first is what you might call the financial channel. Financial markets, stock markets around the world, investor uncertainty.

And that's hit quickly and that's the channel we'll see being hit more if there isn't a deal and the longer it takes to get one. But the second impact, if the U.S. economy slows even more and it's growing -- likely to be growing slowly in the fourth quarter already, or let alone if it goes into recession, that means that there's less demand for the exports of the rest of the world.

They will sell less to the U.S. but more importantly, I think particularly in Europe, where they are being forced, many countries, to tighten a lot -- to have a lot of tax increases and spending cuts, a lot of austerity. The U.S. was seen as the kind of great hope for growth in the advanced world and in the rich world.

So if the U.S. has its own excessive austerity in the short term, that -- that's a real problem for a world economy growing too slowly.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's so much on the table right now. Must everything be done at once or -- you say -- it seems they're taking steps too small. There is no overall tax reform. There is no agreement on the debt limit. How does that -- how does that play out? Is it better to have more all at once or to take baby steps?

BEDDOES: Interesting. The most important thing is to avoid doing absolutely nothing because that's what gets you the kind of massive tax cuts -- tax increases and spending cuts. You don't want stalemate.

But in terms of the deal itself, there is a paradox. What you might call a minimalist deal. For example, an agreement only to extend tax cuts for the middle class. That's the kind of -- what I would think of as a small-bore deal.

A small-bore deal would involve more short-term tightening. If on the other hand you inked the outlines of a grand bargain, some movement on entitlement reform, tax reform, you had a bigger package, it would actually probably mean less tightening in the short term. And you would have a much clearer path for where the U.S. was going in the medium term because the U.S. doesn't have a short-term fiscal crisis, except a self-induced one because of the fiscal cliff. It's not Greece. It's not like the U.S. is being forced to act right now.

The U.S. has a medium and long-term problem with entitlements and population. If politicians on both sides of the aisle could get together and kind of do a down payment for the long-term entitlement issue that would give them the room to not only -- would there be sort of benefits from doing that, but also give them the room to not do so much tightening in the short term when the economy is weak.

FEYERICK: All right, Zanny Minton Beddoes from "The Economist," thank you so much. Terrific insights, appreciate it.

BEDDOES: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Well, if you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet, now is the time to panic. No, don't panic. Our tech expert has some ideas. She'll show you the latest cool gadgets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST, CNN'S "THE NEXT LIST": A look into what's next in the culinary world. Cool tools and strong drinks. So we're going to make a drink called the Thai basil dhakare, and we use liquid nitrogen to freeze and crush up herbs. This is Thai basil. Here is the main part of the technique. Pour liquid nitrogen on the herb. Liquid nitrogen is going to freeze it. You can hear the herb getting frozen. Join me. Dr. Sanjay Gupta as we introduce you to Dave Arnold of the international culinary center.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Two days left until Christmas. Have you done all your shopping? Yikes. If not, our CNN Money tech reporter, Laurie Segall, has a few fun, unique gift ideas for you last-minute shoppers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH REPORTER: Steve, you've brought us a whole table full of holiday gadgets. Let's start with this. How does this work?

STEVE ZIMMERMAN, THINKGEEK: This is the Angry Bird air swimmer. Inflate it and find this happy balance point and after a little bit of assembly, you can fly this around like you're crashing pigs anywhere.

SEGALL: All controlled by that.

ZIMMERMAN: It's all controlled by that and IR remote so as long as you've got line of sight, good for 30, 40 feet of distance. You can go left and right on the fins in the back, forward momentum.

SEGALL: Explain to me exactly why these gloves are cool?

ZIMMERMAN: What makes these gloves special, they're Bluetooth. So in the thumb, you've got a speaker and in the pinky a microphone. So you can make the classic call me gesture and you can talk on your phone that way.

SEGALL: Right now you're calling.

ZIMMERMAN: We've got this paired to my call and I'm going to call.

SEGALL: This is very strange. I hear your voice coming from my thumb right now.

ZIMMERMAN: It's very inspector gadget.

SEGALL: It is.

ZIMMERMAN: These are $69.99.

SEGALL: I see you've got an old-school controller and iPad. What are we doing here?

ZIMMERMAN: This is the IT Bitty. It's syncs with Bluetooth, will play for a month, and not the clunky controls of a touch screen, retro feel.

SEGALL: Are we seeing a throwback to the past?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely seeing a throwback to the past with new technology. Especially gifts for the holiday season, a lot of retro flavor.

SEGALL: Like an old arcade game.

ZIMMERMAN: Exactly.

SEGALL: And I'm still great at Pac-man.

ZIMMERMAN: You've got skills.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: You've got skills, kid. Laurie Segall joins us from New York. You don't have -- I'm sure you don't have three French hens for me, but you have something else. It is the third day of Christmas, after all. What else for today?

SEGALL: Even better. I have something -- I'm going to hold it up here. It's called Clocky, the rolling alarm clock. If you've ever had issues waking up in the morning, it woke me up this morning, a bit of a pain, but it rolls around.

You're about to see it. Instead of being able to hit the snooze button, it jumps, rolls, goes around. So by the time you chase your alarm clock around, I can assure you, Miguel, you're completely awake. It happened this morning and it was quite the experience. You can buy it on fab.com. It's $45. And Fab has all types of quirky little gifts like this.

MARQUEZ: I would take a bat to that sucker on the first morning.

SEGALL: I thought about it.

MARQUEZ: It would be dead. It wouldn't last a day, I don't think. Any other ideas, any smart ideas there, smarty?

SEGALL: Sure. There are a couple different sites that I go to quite a bit. They're great for last-minute shopping. The first one I mentioned is fab.com. That's a great place to go. They offer free shipping for the holidays, very interesting things there.

You've got etsy.com, a lot of local artists put their work here, so inexpensive jewelry, very creative. Onekingslane, you want to put stuff in your home, last-minute shopping and gilt.com, things for men, women and all types of las last-minute deals.

If you want to get something for your loved ones, try going to some of these sites and taking a look around.

MARQUEZ: This year everyone is getting underwear and socks. That's it. I don't have the patience. I can't take anymore. Laurie, thank you very much.

SEGALL: Thank you.

MARQUEZ: A quick-thinking cop saves the day. It's an incredible thing from the Boston harbor. You do not want to miss this. First here is Sanjay Gupta with a look ahead.

GUPTA: Miguel, I'm looking at the psychology behind mass shootings and also what it's like to be the parents of someone who is mentally ill. I can tell you, it can be very hard to get someone into treatment. We've got that. Much more ahead on "SGMD" at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUEZ: A Boston police officer is being hailed a hero after a daring and frigid water rescue. The harrowing ordeal was caught on video. Amanda Grace from CNN affiliate, WHDH, has the story.

BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANDA GRACE, WHDH REPORTER (voice-over): Cell phone video captures Boston Police Officer Edward Norton taking the plunge. He jumped into the frigid Fort Point Channel in a downpour to rescue a woman who had fallen into the water.

OFFICER EDWARD NORTON, BOSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: She was in that water calling for help and I can swim.

HAL MUNGER, WITNESS: He didn't hesitate, ran down the steps, took off his belt and jumped in the water and swam over to get her.

GRACE: Officer Norton says the woman was drowning and he didn't think twice about diving in.

NORTON: One of the other officers had been given the life preserver from someone else. I think it came from the Tea Party Museum so, that helped a lot. I was able to hold onto her with -- hold onto that while she was holding on to the life preserver while holding myself up with the raft that was out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The life preserver around her and they swam to this floating device right here and just held on until the fire department came and then the divers jumped in the water after them.

GRACE: Bystanders watched as a boat picked Officer Norton, the woman and the two firefighters, all four were taken to the hospital to be checked out for hypothermia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell you what, that cop was a hero today. He didn't even think twice about it.

GRACE: But Officer Norton says it was all in a day's work.

NORTON: That's our job to show up when people call for help, so if we don't help, then no one's going to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Boston's finest. Amanda Grace, thank you very much.

The storm that swept across the Midwest is now marching east. Alexandria Steele is in the CNN weather center. Are we going to see travel disruptions as we head closer to the holidays and people get -- try to get to grandma's house for dinner?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we've seen delays throughout this entire holiday, right out of the gate on Wednesday, on Thursday, Friday. So today is no different. We do have a lot of delays, especially in the northeast. You know what's really the culprit?

Look at these winds. In New York and in Washington, we've got wind gusts 40 miles per hour. So it feels like temperatures in the teens and 20s and also this lake-enhanced snow. A lot of snow showers around Vermont and New Hampshire and New York State, as well.

Here's a look at where we've had the delays really all morning long. New York at JFK, an hour and a half and predominantly, wind gust related, Newark, San Francisco on this delay board for days now, because of the inundation of rain.

Ft. Lauderdale, 55-minute delays for you, and all day, as well, but that's not weather related. That's construction at the airport. Also, here's the big picture, the storm moving out so the winds will abate tomorrow in the northeast. It will certainly be a nicer day. Here on the west coast from Seattle to Portland to down towards San Francisco, more rain for you. Here's the bigger picture. This is tomorrow. Watch another wet day, the California coast and northern and central California, so more rain for San Francisco.

But here's what we're really watching. This is one of the climate models. And watch what happens here. Now, this is Monday. So if you're traveling in the southeast on Monday, look what develops into Tuesday, an area of low pressure. So Tuesday it's Christmas.

In the southeast, I think it's going to be a rain-maker for Atlanta and Birmingham. Nashville, though, maybe a little bit of snow. And here, Miguel, a white Christmas so many kids around the country will be enjoying it, meteorologically, a white Christmas, inch of snow on the ground on Christmas morning.

MARQUEZ: I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, very nice. Thank you very much.

That will do it for me. I'm Miguel Marquez. CNN "NEWSROOM" continues at the top of the hour with Don Lemon. And right now keep it here for "Sanjay Gupta, M.D." He's looking for clues about the Newtown shooter.

Sanjay will investigate what Adam Lanza did and did not have in common with gunmen in other mass murders. And he'll explore the likelihood that mental illness would was a factor. "SANJAY GUPTA, MD" starts right now.