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CNN NEWSROOM

Gas Prices Falling; "Let's Agree on What We Agree On"; Deadly Ambush at House Fire

Aired December 24, 2012 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty minutes after the hour.

Good news for anyone hitting the road for grandma's for the holidays. Gas prices have dropped by nearly 12 cents over the last two weeks. The average cost of a gallon of regular is now $3.26. That's according to the latest Lundberg survey.

Our Alison Kosik joins me now from the New York Stock Exchange where it's a shortened trading day.

Stock market closes at 1:00 Eastern, right, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And stocks are trending lower because of the fiscal cliff negotiations or lack thereof. You look at the Dow right now. It's down 41 points. This follows the triple-digit loss on the Dow on Friday.

And, you know, the way Wall Street sees it, unless there's some sort of deal reached, this really could be the trend for stocks at least in the short-term. Even if there's a band-aid measure that's sort of thrown together, Wall Street may see that more of a positive. It looks pretty bleak as far as the fiscal cliff goes -- Alina.

CHO: And let's get back to gas prices, Alison, because you would think a 93 million some-odd people traveling more than 50 miles for the holiday season that gas prices would go up. But they have consecutively gone down. What's the reason behind this and will it last?

KOSIK: Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, it's winter and the peak driving season is over. So, you know, it's all about the law of supply and demand. Supply is up, so demand goes down. So, you see gas prices moving lower.

But also, they're seeing gas prices moved lower because demand for gas is down because of the fiscal cliff -- the big worries about the fiscal cliff and how that's going to affect the economy as a whole. In fact, if you look at oil prices and they have barely moved since late October. Oil prices are between $85 to $90 a barrel since late October. And when oil prices stabilize for a longer time, as they have been, it really gives gas prices a better chance to stabilize as well. But, you know, you look at it broadly, though, the gas prices are not falling for the right reason, because if we could go back into a recession and it's those concerns for a downturn in the economy that are actually pushing prices lower -- Alina.

CHO: All right. Alison Kosik, live from the New York Stock Exchange -- Alison, thank you as always.

KOSIK: Sure.

CHO: The head of the National Rifle Association says to call him crazy for proposing more guns in schools. The NRA's CEO Wayne LaPierre insists a ban on assault weapons won't prevent mass killings, which he blames on violent video games and the media. He says armed guards in schools are the best way to prevent future tragedies. Just listen to him yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy. I'll tell you what the American people -- I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: And it's the end of an era for "Newsweek" magazine, its very last print edition. Beginning the first of the New Year, the magazine will become a digital-only publication. Now, you're looking at the cover of the very last print edition. It's a black and white photos you can see there. And it's of the magazine's old New York headquarters.

The 80-year-old "Newsweek", of course, fell victim to slumping revenue and readers who moved increasingly online. In a statement, "Newsweek's" editor Tina Brown said, quote, "We're making our last momentous change, embracing a digital medium that all our competitors will one day need to embrace. We are ahead of the curve."

Well, Christmas is upon us and can the fiscal cliff be far behind? The short answer is no.

Before flying off to Hawaii, President Obama left behind a stopgap plan to -- in his words -- agree on what he agree on and leave the rest for later.

Our Brianna Keilar -- lucky girl -- traveling with the first family. She's in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Brianna, I guess my question is -- how much of a working holiday is this for the president or is it really up to Congress at this point to do something in the next eight days?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alina, it's always a working holiday for President Obama, but it is very much up to Congress to do something here going into the New Year. As of right now, this may surprise you, but there are basically no discussions going on. The White House, Senate Democrats, they are not in discussion with House Republicans and Senate Republicans in any substantive way. That may seem troubling to you because, yes, in order to work out some sort of deal that will make it through Congress, all of these parties need to agree to something.

But as of right now, they are not talking. All eyes now turning to the Senate, which will reconvene on Thursday. Senate Majority Harry Reid has the task of trying to cobble something together that can get some Republican support in the Senate and also get some Republican support in the House and make it through Congress.

That, obviously, is a very difficult task. The White House saying they want the threshold for income tax rates expiring to be $250,000 and above. They are back to their initial negotiating position. You can imagine a lot of Republicans are not going to be onboard with that.

And so between that and the lack of discussions going on, you sort of understand why you're hearing from Democrats and Republicans this pessimism about going over the fiscal cliff. Privately, Alina, that's all what we're hearing that it is a real possibility to go over the cliff, even though there's also a possibility of still working out a deal.

But this is a last-ditch effort for sure, Alina.

Yes, it's incredible that privately they are also saying that, because I think everyone thought once we get closer to the deadline, they're just going to get it together, come up with some sort of deal.

Now, if this stopgap measure does actually pass before January 1st, Brianna, is the president prepared to go back to D.C. and cut his vacation short?

KEILAR: Yes, he is. Now, officially he's supposed to be here through the New Year, but it sounds like talking to the White House that it's not really a matter of if the president goes back to Washington, D.C., it's a matter of when. And we expect that will be sometime around when the Senate is convening.

If there is legislation to go through the Senate, Alina, this is something that's going to need President Obama perhaps to be there twisting arms. He, as you know, is the commander-in-chief, but when it comes to something like this, he may also be the top lobbyer in chief, so he'll need to be in Washington for that role.

CHO: All right. In the meantime, try, I know it will be difficult, but try to enjoy your assignment in Honolulu, Hawaii, Brianna, all right? Thanks for joining us.

KEILAR: All right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back.

At least two firefighters are dead in Upstate New York this morning. They were shot to death while trying to respond to a house fire. It happened in the town of Webster. That's just east of Rochester.

This story, of course, is developing and my colleague Poppy Harlow following these developments for us from our studios in New York.

So, Poppy, what's the latest? What do you know about what happened?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty unbelievable and think about the timing, Christmas Eve, another shooting. It happened just before 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Firefighters in Webster, New York, that's right near Rochester, New York, right on the lake front there, responded to just a typical house fire. They showed up and they were immediately gunned down, shot at.

Two of those responding firefighters were actually killed. Two more were wounded. What I can tell you is that one of the wounded firefighters actually got in their car and drove themselves to ambulances and was taken to an area hospital, Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. The other one was taken to the hospital, transported there.

I want you to take a listen to some sound we have from a press conference that happened at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time. You're going to hear the details from Police Chief Gerald Pickering. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF GERALD PICKERING, WEBSTER, N.Y., POLICE: The responding firefighters when they pulled up on the scene started receiving -- were fired upon by one or more shooters. Four of the firefighters were shot, two are deceased, two were transported to area hospitals.

It's still an active crime scene. We have firefighters there at the location. It took awhile for to make it safe for the scene, to move in to put out the fires and we've got firefighters up there at this time putting out the fires. This time, it's an active crime scene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So you heard him say it's still an active crime scene, Alina. And what exacerbated the problem this morning was the fact that as soon as the shots were fired, the firefighters had to retreat. So these fires kept burning for hours with no one to put them out. They caught on to nearby houses.

What we know as of about 10:00 a.m. Eastern -- three houses on fire, one vehicle on fire.

The two officers, the two firefighters that made it through are both in area hospitals. One is in stable condition, we're told. The other is in what's called guarded condition. What that means is the patient is in intensive care and is being watched very, very closely. Governor Andrew Cuomo just out with a statement saying, "All our thoughts and prayers go to the friends and family of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence."

CHO: You mentioned the timing. I mean, I think for a family to get this type of news at any time of year, of course, awful and devastating, but to get it the day before Christmas -- I mean, just so tragic.

Having said that, I mean, it's just also confusing. I mean, I know it's still developing. Are there -- is there any indication as to who might have perpetrated this act?

HARLOW: That's the question. We have no information on the shooters. What we do know coming from the police chief there is that authorities have people in custody that they believe have knowledge of the ambush.

So they have people in custody they are questioning. That's all we know.

I do want you to take a listen to some sound. It came from a neighbor that's lived in this area his entire life. His name, Ben Whipple.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WHIPPLE, WEBSTER, N.Y., RESIDENT: I've lived here my entire life. You never imagine anything -- something like that happening so close to home. And I just thinking firemen going in to help a situation out and this type of outcome where now they are going to have the holidays, you know, their family is not going to have them there. It's devastating. I would never think this would happen here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: We are expecting an update from the fire marshal there, Rob. He's going to speak any minute now, 12:15 Eastern, in about a half an hour. There's going to a press conference at the hospital. So, we'll bring you the latest.

CHO: I know you will be on top of it, Poppy. And just tragic, two firefighters -- just to recap -- shot and killed while responding to a fire in Upstate New York. Poppy Harlow, thank you very much.

I want to move on now to the civil war in Syria, where opposition groups tell us an air raid today targeting a bakery -- yes, a bakery -- killed nine people including six children. This marks the second attack on hungry civilians in as many days.

More than 100 people who had gone without bread for about a week were killed Sunday as they lined up at another bakery. And that death toll is expected to climb.

For their part, the Syrian government says they had nothing to do with the attacks. They blame terrorists.

So, what do Americans think of the war in Syria? Well, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, most are concerned but not enough for direct U.S. involvement.

Take a look at this. Our numbers show that 34 percent are, quote, very concerned about the situation in Syria, just 46 percent somewhat concerned. But the majority of Americans, 52 percent, oppose the U.S. and other countries using force to establish safe zones for opposition forces.

Other international headlines to tell you about today, we expect to find out the official results of Egypt's constitutional referendum vote. Unofficial results of the second round of voting published by state-run media show a commanding 64 percent of Egyptians approved the new constitution drafted by an assembly dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. An opposition spokesman says several cases have already been filed in the courts to challenge that vote.

Check out these photos from one of the most luxurious auctions of the year. Listen to this, this weekend, Tunisians sold off thousands of treasures confiscated from former President Ben Ali who went into exile two years ago. Look at that jewelry.

Items for sale, more than 30 high-end cars. You see the jewelry there. Also rare art. A stuffed jaguar among the things sold. And, yes, even DVDs like "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Did we mention it is all for a good cause? The funds raised will assist social programs in Tunisia.

Remember that rocket North Korean launched back on December 12th? Well, it turns out it had the capability to travel 6,000 miles. And that means one could conceivably reach the United States. That's according to officials with South Korea's defense ministry based on a part they recovered from one of the rocket's boosters.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that he's confident if North Korea were to ever launch a missile at the United States, the U.S. military could guard against it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: All right, guys. You can't think of that it perfect Christmas gift for that special person in your life? Well, don't panic. There's still time. It's only Christmas Eve.

CNN Money's Laurie Segall is here to help.

All right. So, you've got some great gadget ideas. We've already talked about some of them. But we've got to clue our viewers in.

So, first, let's talk about these gloves here. They are high tech gloves.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY: Sure.

CHO: What do they do? SEGALL: They are almost very Inspector Gadget-like. Imagine being able to completely replace your phone with your glove. You can take a phone call like going this. It's easier for me to show you.

We actually have a rep coming from Think Geek. Take a look at the demo he showed us, Alina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the thumb, you've got a speaker and in the pinky, you've got a microphone, so you can do the classic "call me" gesture and you can talk in your phone that way.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEGALL: So, they're $66.9. You can get them on thinkgeek.com. And it's the kind of gadget for someone like wow, I can't believe this actually exists.

CHO: Yes. I mean, why would you want to walk around with a pair of gloves that look like that?

SEGALL: I don't know, you know?

CHO: Well, OK. So alarm clock.

SEGALL: Yes.

CHO: Roving alarm clock. This is something that could really come in handy for me this week as I'm waking up at 3:00 in the morning.

SEGALL: Yes, this is your best friend and worst enemy. This is Clocky the rolling alarm clock. It's $45. You can buy it on Fab.com.

And so, what exactly does Clocky do? Clocky runs away as you try to turn it over. So, you hear it go off, and then you try it to press the snooze button. But Clocky has got wheels and you can see it running around all the time.

So, by the time you get to Clocky and turn it off, generally you're away at that point. A good and bad mood. I tried it out a little bit. You're definitely awake.

CHO: And this is how much, 45 bucks?

SEGALL: This is $45 and get at fab.com. You can get it all over the Internet. It's popular and it's very lightweight. I mean, it moves quickly. And it's definitely popular. If you've people you know who have trouble getting up in the morning.

CHO: That's me.

All right. So you some blasts from the past items. I see this right here, which takes me back to my Ms. Pac-Man days. What is it?

SEGALL: Yes. For those of us arcade lovers, you can turn your iPhone into a miniature arcade game. This right here is Arcade Junior and you can put your iPhone into it and you can actually -- it works on Bluetooth, so you can actually download the old school games like Pac- Man and Tetris and all those games you used to love. And you can play not with the touch screen and using the joystick right here.

CHO: That's so cool.

SEGALL: It's awesome and it's cheap. It's about $15 to $20 on thinkgeek.com. And they also have it for the iPad 2. So it's definitely a blast from the past for those of us arcade lovers.

CHO: Super cool. Where can you find it?

SEGALL: It's on thinkgeek.com.

CHO: And, finally, this is something I've been meaning to get myself. A lot of people know what this is, but clue us in. What is this?

SEGALL: Yes. This is -- you know, for those who miss having a land line, you can actually attach it to your smartphone. I'm doing it right here. You can take calls the old school way, but with your smartphone.

So we see a lot of pick this up. You can get it on Amazon. This one is $30 on Fab. And I like this one because it's well-designed. It's designed by a French designer.

CHO: It feels very rubbery, right?

SEGALL: Yes. And it's the kind of thing. I mean, I can imagine us walking around with this. It's not the high-tech gloves but it's cool, Alina.

CHO: All right. Laurie Segall, with all things tech for the holidays. Thanks so much. Merry Christmas.

All right. Most people are content to put up a nice, tasteful Christmas tree. That wasn't good enough for one homeowner. His bold holiday statement raised the roof, shall we say.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maybe if this homeowner had measured better, his Christmas tree wouldn't have burst through the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's crazy, right?

MOOS: What's crazy is how crazy everyone is about this Christmas tree stunt that really doesn't stump anyone for more than a few seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we bought a 14-foot tree and I cut the top, six feet of it off.

MOOS: Then plunked it on to a plywood platform on the roof and artfully arranged shingles around it.

(on camera): It's funny, your house is sort of proof that the price of trees have gone through the roof.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS (voice-over): Seattle architect Patrick Krueger (ph) has always been a huge fan of the movie "Christmas Vacation" in which the main character, Clark Griswold, is obsessed with the perfect tree --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Dad, that thing wouldn't fit in our yard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not going in our yard, Russ. It's going in our living room.

MOOS: That's kind of what Patrick did. His license plate even pays homage to the Christmas-fixated Griswolds.

(on camera): Actually, the first tree Patrick put up on the roof had a problem your average living room tree doesn't, it blew off.

(voice-over): Plywood platform it's on had to be bolted on. True, this is not a new concept. In England and in Lincolnwood, Illinois, there have been grander versions of the same visual joke with the tree cut in three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're saying it's better than this one?

MOOS (on camera): Yours has a Charlie Brown aspect to it.

CHARLIE BROWN: I think it needs me.

MOOS (voice-over): What Patrick needs and has is a kinky Christmas tree, as well as a nice plump regular one with the star that grazes the ceiling rather than pierces it.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Would have fooled me. CNN's Jeanne Moos always on the lookout for the odd and unusual. Thanks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back.

AAA estimates a little more than 93 million of you will travel from now until New Year's. If you're one of those flying or driving today, weather conditions look pretty good. Tomorrow could be a vastly different story, especially across the South. Our Alexander Steele is in the CNN weather center with a look at our holiday forecast.

Hey, Alexandra. Good morning. What's it looking like out there?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, Alina, it is a mess.

All right. Take a look. This is what's happening currently in the eastern third of the country. Look at this -- from Washington through the mid-Atlantic and down through the Deep South, rain very heavy at times and thunderstorms.

But this is the opening act. We're going to see a whole different scenario. The big show is still well to the West. So, this is what's going to transpire during the next couple of days. And we've got a rare and robust storm getting its act together.

All right. So 2:00 today, here's what's happening. We're going to see through the Wasatch, it's snow and watch what happens. Through today and into tonight that moves into the Colorado Rockies.

By tomorrow morning, Oklahoma City, five to eight inches of snow with this, which is incredibly rare. Then, into the Deep South for Christmas, we've got some very heavy rain and a tornado event looks as though it could be brewing. And not just an isolated event, it looks like we could see severe storms in the Southeast.

And then, by Wednesday, it moves up the coast, gets into the mid- Atlantic and by Thursday into northern New England.

So this is quite rare as I said, so who will see a wet and white Christmas? It will be rain in Houston and New Orleans, Atlanta, West Coast, San Francisco to Seattle. It will be white for tomorrow in Wichita, Oklahoma City, Little Rock and Spokane.

Let me just give you a picture about how rare this event is. This area of low pressure, it's deep and it's to the South and it's very strong. Rare tornadoes, we are going to see them tomorrow -- Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia.

But the last time we had tornadoes on Christmas was 2006 when we had six. The last time we had 12 was 1969, and we could see 12. Not out of the question.

And rare snow in Oklahoma City. We are expecting five to eight inches. Of the last 120 years, Alina, we've had snow on six occasions, and that was just at least an inch.

CHO: Wow. All right. Alexandra Steele, thank you so much. We'll check back with you later.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alina Cho.

"NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL" with my friend Suzanne Malveaux starts right now.