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Fiscal Cliff Finger-Pointing; Chiefs Play After Murder-Suicide; Returning Home to Danger; Using the Tumbleweed Minesweeper; Online Training Helps Job Seekers; Naughty or Nice?

Aired December 2, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Deb. See you soon. Always a pleasure.

Hi, everyone.

I have to cue a little bit there. Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.

We are going to get you up to speed, first, on the day's headlines here on CNN.

Fiscal cliff talks are turning into a high-stakes game of chicken. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said today there's no deal -- no deal unless Republicans agree to raise taxes on the wealthy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION")

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: If they are going to force higher rates on virtually all Americans because they are unwilling to let tax rates go up on 2 percent of Americans, then, you know, that's the choice we're going to have to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Republicans are furious. They don't like Democrats drawing a red line in the sand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think we're going over the cliff. It's pretty clear to me they've made a political calculation.

(END VIDEO CL9IP)

LEMON: President Barack Obama and GOP leaders have only held one face to face meeting on the fiscal cliff since the election. That meeting took place more than two weeks ago.

The Kansas City Chiefs suited up and took the field today against Carolina. That's despite the shock and horror of yesterday's apparent murder-suicide involving one of their own players, the linebacker Jovan Belcher. The Chiefs responded with only their second victory of the season. Stay right there because full details in a full report on CNN just a minute away.

High winds and heavy rain are pummeling the Northwest in the third storm, strong storm of the week. Rainfall will continue throughout the day. Some places have already seen over a foot of rain since yesterday. People living in northern California, Oregon and Washington state are bracing for rising rivers and possible mudslides.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

LEMON: Supporters of Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsi, protested near Egypt's high court building today, and blocked judges from entering the high court, reacted by indefinitely suspending all court sessions. That would postpone a ruling on the legitimacy of the group drawing up of Egypt's new constitution. President Morsi has declared that his decisions are now immune from judicial oversight.

It is a frightening and deadly scene in Japan. Just look at this. At least two cars are still trapped inside a highway tunnel after a massive section of the concrete structure collapsed. Police say they have already found several burned bodies inside the rubble about 50 miles west of Tokyo.

It's not clear yet what caused the tunnel to cave in or exactly how many cars were inside at the time.

Talk about a traffic jam, thousand of cars and trucks are stuck on a major highway in Russia after a major snowstorm caused a huge traffic backup two days ago. A 34-mile stretch of road between Moscow and St. Petersburg is completely jammed with just one lane open in each direction clear of snow. It's so bad roadside field kitchens have been set up. Can you imagine? Drivers are also running out of gas to keep their engines running in the subzero temperatures.

It's the hour's top story on CNN: the double tragedy that stunned an NFL franchise and everyone in its host city. The Kansas City Chiefs won just their second game of the entire season today after the shock of a teammate's apparent murder-suicide yesterday.

And CNN's Ed Lavandera is near Arrowhead Stadium right now where the Chiefs leadership decided that the game must go on.

So, Ed, how did the team acknowledge this horrible tragedy?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Don, from Kansas City.

Well, the game started -- before the game even kicked off, a moment of silence for all victims of domestic violence. Clearly, an attempt by the Chiefs to make sure that Jovan Belcher's girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, is not forgotten in all of this as a high profile NFL football player is in the midst of this tragic story.

But this was a far cry from any kind of normal NFL football game on a Sunday afternoon, Don. The stadium was very empty, very quiet throughout much of the game. Clearly, not a raucous atmosphere you would usually find at Arrowhead Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs are known for supporting their fan despite this being a rather miserable season that the Chiefs are enduring.

But after the game, the head coach of the football team, Romeo Crennel, spoke to reporters. Remember, he was one of the coaches who witnessed Jovan Belcher killing himself at their practice facility yesterday morning.

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

COACH ROMEO CRENNEL, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: It's tough when circumstances happen. You can't undo them. And so, you have to rely on each other, rely on your family and friends and rely on your faith.

And that's what the team tried to do today. And we were able to do that and try to work our way through the tragedy and knowing that it's not over today, it still will go on tomorrow, the next day and the next day. But life is going to go on as well and we have to work through it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Yes, there was some talk of whether or not this game would have been canal today. Obviously, the NFL football league decided to continue on with the game. The players supported that decision.

Very few clues from players after the game as to what might have transpired or what led people to this murder-suicide yesterday morning. That's one of the things investigators, Don, are continuing to look at as well -- Don.

LEMON: (AUDIO GAP) from police, what are saying?

LAVANDERA: I'm sorry?

LEMON: What's the latest from police? Have they had any updates or press conferences recently?

LAVANDERA: Nothing today. Obviously, we know one of the things that they will be looking at is the relationship between Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. What had happened here in the last few weeks, was there anything -- any warning signs that might have been missed or anything that might have pointed to, you know, a tragedy of this magnitude unfolding?

So you can imagine that investigators are taking a close look, speaking with family members of hers as well as of Jovan Belcher's as well. So, that work we presume is continuing on today and well into tomorrow as well.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera with the very latest -- Ed, thank you very much.

Families just trying to survive in a war zone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As gunfire rings out again, her father takes away the bullet casings she's collected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: In Syria, the new normal is unimaginable to you and me. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Syria's government blaming rebels for a deadly car bombing today. The bombing near a mosque in the city of Homs killed 15 people and wounded 24 others. Syria's bloody civil war started almost 20 months ago. More than 40,000 people have been killed.

And as CNN's Arwa Damon is reporting now, struggling families are returning to their homes in Aleppo and discovering neighborhoods are now war zones.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON (voice-over): They are home again but they are cold and broke and still in danger. About a third of the families who fled this Sahkour (ph) neighborhood of Aleppo have come back, only to find out that these streets are now on the front lines.

But if the regime can retake Sahkour, it can cut off the main artery for opposition forces in Aleppo and reopen a route to the airport.

On a nearby hilltop, the neighborhood of Suleiman Halabi. The rebels used to control that as well but lost it a month ago.

The battle lines here are constantly fluid and snipers are a constant threat.

(on camera): The frontline is visible just through here and we can barely make out three bodies. The rebel fighters tell us they are two male and one female. There were five. They managed to extract two but they can't reach the others.

(voice-over): For the children here, gunfire has become background noise. This 12-year-old Kawli (ph) hardly notices. She says she's not afraid anymore.

To start with, little Halid (ph) is also chatty but then gets scared. Her father says she thought the rebel fighters with us were Assad's forces. Despite his efforts to reassure her, she's still anxious and with reason.

Sula Hadid (ph) was shot in the arm at a check point. "The bullet was going to hit my daughter," he tells us, "but I had just put my arm around her."

She, just 4 years old, blinks hard, yes. She ended up drenched in her father's blood. As gunfire rings out again, her father takes away the bullet casings she's collected.

Nearby a woman who doesn't want to be filmed takes me aside. "Sometimes I want to die rather than live like this," she whispers.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Aleppo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All righty, everyone. Let's talk some politics right now.

Look who is joining me right here in Atlanta, in the Hotlanta.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In the mother ship of CNN, and to see Don Lemon -- the Donald.

LEMON: Ana Navarro, who's our Republican strategist and a CNN contributor. And also, I have to say, a buddy of mine. We do hang out, right? You know, even though she's sometimes mean to me on the air.

And then there's L.Z. Granderson, who's always mean to me on the air. And he's here to talk a little politics. Everyone knows L.Z. is a CNN contributor. And also, he's a senior writer at ESPN.

NAVARRO: And we hang -- we hang together, too. We're a bipartisan crowd here.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, we do.

LEMON: Completely.

NAVARRO: It's all a possibility.

LEMON: I don't affiliate with any party. You're a Republican. He's Democrat. There you go.

OK. Let's move on. Thirty days --

GRANDERSON: I'm an independent. Put that in there.

LEMON: Oh, OK. I'm told you he's meeting me.

Thirty days and counting until we go over the fiscal cliff unless Congress in the White House cuts a deal to avoid those tax hikes and spending cuts. Right now, it sounds like two groups of people are looking at two different sets of numbers. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GEITHNER: We prefer to do upfront alongside a deal that includes raising rates on upper income Americans to the Clinton levels. We are prepared to do a meaningful amount of savings on the spending side, not just to avoid the damage of the sequester, but to help reduce our long-term deficits.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I was disappointed by the president's proposal. I think it is essentially a rerun of his budget proposal. I mean, the revenue proposals are, you know, $1.6 trillion in revenue and tax increases. It's a massive tax increase, but also not significant and meaningful entitlement reforms.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

LEMON: So, Ana, you know, I hear comments like those and the remarks by John Boehner and the President of the United States and I wonder after the election -- did we learn anything? Because I -- my reading on the election was that the people, the voters wanted compromise, and for the people in Washington to talk to each other, not at each other. That still appears to be what they're doing, no?

NAVARRO: Well, I think right after the election, that was the message that even President Obama and John Boehner and the entire leadership, we saw that incredible image of the minority and majority leaders on both houses come out saying things that sounded like they were going to cooperate. But, you know, only in Washington can that mean nothing quickly.

And, you know, but I -- but I do think, look, let's put this in perspective. We've got a game of chicken going on here. There's a lot of posturing. There's 30 days to get this done, which for Washington time, it's like dog years. It's an eternity. One day counts for seven. When they want to get something done, they can get it done.

But I think, right now, you're seeing is a lot of public posturing to get the best offer possibly out of the other side.

LEMON: L.Z.?

GRANDERSON: You know, I spent the past couple days out in Long Beach at the victory fund initiative of LGBT leaders and talked to a lot of members who work in Congress, as well as other congressional aides.

And Ana is absolutely right. I mean, there's a lot of posturing, but it's also a lot of time. To the rest of us, to the American people, when we hear, oh, 30 days left, we are thinking, oh my gosh, we are going to die, we are going to die. Well, that's like 20 years, you know?

LEMON: Right.

GRANDERSON: And don't forget, there's already -- the Senate already voted on something that the House needs to be looking at. And that is allowing the tax cuts to still maintain for those making less than $250,000 a year. That's already on the table. That's already something that we can talk and move forward with right now.

So despite what you heard Sunday, I don't think we are as far as the rhetoric will tell you.

LEMON: Yes. It seems like there's more urgency in buying Christmas presents than it is --

GRANDERSON: And going golfing.

LEMON: Exactly -- than getting this done.

NAVARRO: I actually thought it was good, though, to see President Clinton golfing with President Obama today because President Clinton was able to do this.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: He was able to triangulate in his second term. He was able, you know, he was in there to build legacy and I think that's something that President Obama has got to take into store and I hope he continues to get advice from President Clinton.

LEMON: Good point, because it goes on speaking of former presidents, because George W. Bush got re-elected in 2004 and he and the Republicans say that they were prepared to implement the agenda he ran on, elections have consequences. Remember that famous sound byte? That he always like to say, Obama ran on higher taxes for the wealthy and he won.

So, L.Z., shouldn't he be making the same argument? After all, that is what he ran on.

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. You know what I find interesting -- if you look at the statistics, many of the blue states that supported President Obama are actually some of the richest states in the country. And so not only did you have him defeat Romney pretty handily in the Electoral College, but you have people who are willing to sacrifice their own money to make sure that President Obama, his policies made it to the White House.

You know, it was the exact opposite interesting enough in terms of Republicans. Most of the red states are some of the poorest states in the country. So I think it is very interesting that when you se average American citizens who happen to be making a little bit more money willing to sacrifice for the good of the country. I think that's a good message and something to get behind and stand on.

LEMON: So, L.Z. and Ana, our producers Richard and Andrea say, can we keep them over the break? Because I want to ask them, I want to negotiate with you two, I'm going to be the mediator. Do we have time for that? Can we do that?

OK, stay on the other side of the break. I'm starting with the Republican and the independent and we'll negotiate to see how we can come to some sort of an agreement.

Don't get mad now, don't be mad.

How we can come to an agreement on the fiscal cliff.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: We are talking politics and specifically, of course, the fiscal cliff. Ana and L.Z. are still with me. We held them over the break.

So, let's try this. Let's see how it goes. I'm going to mediate with the independent and Republican here.

So, here's where we are, the president has said this is on the table, here's where I stand -- tax increases for the wealthiest 2 percent of the country, OK?

Ana, you're a Republican, I hand that to you -- what do you say?

NAVARRO: First of all, you know, the devil is in the detail. How do we define the top 2 percent of the country? Right now, it's $250,000 is the definition.

Well, Don, that may be wealthy in some parts of the United States, but it's not wealthy in other parts of the United States.

LEMON: So what do you do? How do you counter?

NAVARRO: You raise the cap on what wealthy means. You also put it all on the table as to how you're going to raise taxes. Does it necessarily mean raising taxes? Could it be getting maybe rid of some deductions?

LEMON: OK. So you would say, all right, we are willing to talk about raising taxes but we also want to raise what the minimum requirement is for the wealthiest --

NAVARRO: And I'd like to -- and he needs to put some skin in the game, some real entitlement reform, cutting and spending.

LEMON: OK. Cutting -- there you go.

OK. L.Z., next, there's the counter.

GRANDERSON: Yes, sir.

LEMON: What happens now?

GRANDERSON: You know what? I'd be willing to actually move the needle a little bit in the conversation to increase the tax rate if we are aggressively able to address the loopholes and deductions that the wealthy get.

You know, the misnomer is, is that -- it's true, there's a high tax rate there. But because the access that the wealthy get in terms of having the proper lawyers so they can find all the loophole in deductions, they are paying at a much lower rate. So, that's actually more the crux.

LEMON: She gave me specifics. So what's your specific? What are you willing to counter? GRANDERSON: My specific would be -- I will counter with looking at the capital gains tax, actually. And talk about a way of progressively moving that based upon your income and let you have the Bush tax cut, but look at the capital gains because that's actually where a lot of the money is flying out.

NAVARRO: I like the capital gains tax, L.Z. Don't mess with that one.

LEMON: So, I'm not going to give you this. What's the number on that --

GRANDERSON: No, I don't want to get rid of it, but we can definitely do something about it, because --

LEMON: OK. So we got you. This camera says what?

NAVARRO: Three.

LEMON: Three. I'm going to do a Jon Stewart. Meet me at camera three.

There you go, just counter and start negotiating and we won't have to deal with all this stuff. You've heard it from two people, three people here. We got the ball rolling, so let's go, Congress.

NAVARRO: Let's get it done.

LEMON: Let's get it done, lawmakers, right?

GRANDERSON: Let's --

NAVARRO: Yes.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you, guys.

NAVARRO: Be like a tennis shoe, just do it.

LEMON: Thank you, my friend.

Thank you, L.Z. Appreciate it. Good to be back and good to talk to both of you.

NAVARRO: We miss you here, L.Z.

LEMON: Yes, I hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving. OK, we got to go on --

GRANDERSON: I didn't get an invitation.

LEMON: -- and talk about heroes. That's because we did not want to invite you.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: It's a big night on CNN. GRANDERSON: Wow.

LEMON: "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE" is live in just a few hours.

You know I'm just kidding, some people might think I'm serious.

And that's when we'll find out our hero of the year. Nischelle Turner is in Los Angeles for the awards.

Nischelle, you never know what's happening on this show. She's one of our -- one of last year's winners with her, Bruno Serato. He was one of our favorites.

How are you guys doing?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Do you hear him?

BRUNO SERATO, CNN HERO: I can't hear him.

TURNER: OK. That's OK. I'll translate in Don Lemon speak. He said he likes you a lot. You're one of his favorites.

SERATO: Thank you. I love you too.

TURNER: Yes, Bruno is here and we are getting ready for "Heroes 2012: An All-Star Tribute". We are just a couple hours away from getting things kicked off.

And what we have been doing every day or all day been kind of reminiscing with some of our favorite heroes. And, Bruno, of course, last year -- you know, we were introduced to you and your story and the good work you were doing with kids here in southern California. Helping kids who sometimes wouldn't get a good meal -- just get a nice good bowl of food for the soul.

SERATO: I know. Can you imagine? I was just counting last night, we started this program seven years ago and we are over 450,000 children that we feed them good pasta so far, which when I cover the numbers I'm like, oh, my God, I did so much. It was unreal to me also. I still can't believe it.

TURNER: Now tell me what's happened since you were named one our the top ten heroes of the year and honored with that last year?

SERATO: Well, honestly, I tell everybody, I feel like I was Sophia Loren of Italy because, as you know, she's the biggest star they're having in Italy. I just feel like I was Sophia Loren.

It was amazing. The donation was flowing. I was talking to some customers of mine last time, which I was looking (ph) at the White House (INAUDIBLE) the last month and a half, it was a quarter of a million dollars for my --

TURNER: A quarter of a million dollars. SERATO: -- for my own charity, which is amazing.

And a new program this year, which is my passion, as you know, feeding the kids, but now, it's time to move out of motel family from one room to a two-bedroom apartment. An up-to-date, we have already moved 21 families.

TURNER: Twenty-one families who were living in hotels and now, they have a place to call home.

Bruno, I have to give you a high five on that one. And that's good stuff.

And these types of stories like Bruno's story, Don, are ones that are going to be mirrored so many times on stage tonight here at Heroes.

This is one of the really -- I cover so much here in Hollywood, so many award ceremonies, but this is the one you come out of with a smile on your face, you feel empowered, you feel inspired, and it just makes you feel good, doesn't it?

SERATO: I have to say, ciao, mama!

TURNER: Ciao, mama!

LEMON: And we like it. And Bruno makes you feel good because he's such an amazing chef. We love that he's feeding hungry children.

TURNER: Indeed.

LEMON: But there are some hungry adults here and we will take his food as well because we love it.

Thank you very much. Thank you, Bruno. And thank you, Nischelle.

TURNER: Yes, we will.

CNN is honoring to recognize the real heroes of this world. Our coverage begins tonight, 8:00 Eastern, right after this broadcast, on CNN. A CNN Heroes pre-show special, "SHARING THE SPOTLIGHT," followed immediately by " CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE " live from Los Angeles, hosted by our very own Anderson Cooper.

A day after one of the players took his girlfriend's life and his own, the Kansas City Chiefs took to the field this afternoon. Reaction from those who were there, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Half past the hour right now. Now, it's time for a look at the headlines.

The fiscal cliff talks are at a stalemate or not. It depends on who you asked. Democrats and Republicans can't even seem to agree on whether or not they'll eventually agree to a deal at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR," STATE OF THE UNION": John Boehner, again, the Speaker, said we're at a stalemate. Is that how you would describe where things are?

GEITHNER: No, I think we're far apart still but I think we're moving closer together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: A leading Republican predicts doom and gloom.

GRAHAM: I think we're going over the cliff. It's pretty clear to me they've made a political calculation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, coming up, a conservative host says the whole fiscal cliff is bogus and we should just go ahead and let the country fall over that cliff.

The Kansas City Chiefs won their second game of the season today. It was a game that the coaches and owners decided to play even though the team was rocked by the news that one of their own committed suicide shortly after allegedly killing his girlfriend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEXTER MCCLUSTER, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS RUNNING BACK: It was very emotional, but you saw brothers stick together, coaches stick together, and everybody stayed strong. And this is a great team win.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think the tragedy had something to do with your team playing better today?

MCCLUSTER: I mean, honestly, if we can erase yesterday, you know, that would be a great blessing, but I think that the team, if that wouldn't have happened, we would have come out here and fought hard, but you know what, that gave us the extra oomph to, you know what, let's go out here and let's get the job done, not take no for an answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Also in the news, high winds and heavy rain are pummeling the northwest and the third strong storm of the week. Rainfall will continue through the day. Some places have already seen over a foot of rain since Wednesday. People living in northern California, Oregon, Washington state are bracing for rising rivers and possible mudslides.

Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi protesting near Egypt's high court building today and blocked judges from entering. A high court reacted by indefinitely suspending all court sessions. That will postpone a ruling on the legitimacy of the group drawing up Egypt's new constitution. President Morsi has declared that his decisions are now immune from judicial oversight.

Talk about a traffic jam. Thousands of cars and trucks are stuck on a major highway in Russia after a snowstorm caused a huge traffic backup two days ago. A 34-mile stretch of road between Moscow and St. Petersburg is completely jammed. With just one lane in each direction cleared of cleared. It is so bad that roadside field kitchens have been set up. Drivers are also running out of gas by keeping their engines running in the subzero temperatures.

A top conservative says let's just go over that fiscal cliff. He explains why next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Just 30 days left until we hit those automatic spending cuts and tax increases if the folks in Washington can't work things out. Many are calling for compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff. That's called into question the anti-tax pledge many Republicans have signed. For some lawmaker that means no compromise.

I spoke with the editor-in-chief of Redstate.com Erick Erickson -- you know him -- about the controversy over the so-called Norquist pledge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's not the Norquist pledge, it's the American for Tax Reform no tax reform pledge and it's been the one thing that's really kept the Republicans grounded on something. I mean, Don, honestly I don't know what Republicans stand for anymore. They stand, it looks like, for capitulation in Washington on a host of things.

They spin this bad as the Democrats. At least the Democrats are responsible enough to go get loans from China to pay for their spending. The Republicans want to do it without paying for it. They don't seem to have any fiscal discipline. I mean at one -- some point the Republicans have to stand for something. The pledge was the last thing they stood on.

LEMON: If nothing is getting done, though, that is a bad thing, Erick.

ERICKSON: Why? I'm not sure that it is. I'm not sure that this fiscal cliff really is a fiscal cliff. I think it changes the baseline. Republicans get better negotiating position on the other side when they're not scared to death of their own shadow and fearful of not looking reasonable. And, you know, it is a bipartisan compromise.

To think that the same jokers who got us this compromise will somehow get us a better compromise, I think, is absolutely silly. Some of these guys have been voted out by the American public. Maybe we should wait until the new people who have been through this before and just through the campaign, when they come in and change. I just -- I have a hard time believing that this Congress, the one that got us into this mess we're dealing with, will somehow field a way to get out of it.

LEMON: Listen, there -- I understand what you're saying about waiting for the new people to come in, but many of the new people coming in and many of the old people who are still there are not economists. They're not experts on the economy. They are not experts on the fiscal cliff.

If you speak to economists and people who know, they will tell you it is a bad thing to go over that cliff. Yet -- and still you're saying maybe we should do it. What is -- what's the sense of doing that?

ERICKSON: We had 17 debt and deficit commissions since 1982 and we've listened to the experts every time. And the national debt has gone up from $1 trillion to $16 trillion. Congress does not cut spending. They have been saying for a long time we need a balanced approach. The experts say we need a balanced approach. The so-called fiscal cliff is the most balanced approach that's every come out of Congress and now they don't want to do it.

LEMON: So what happens if we do go over this cliff, Erick? Our credit rating, what it means for those -- the incentives and for the cuts that kick in automatically. What does this mean for us because it's not good by any -- by any means.

ERICKSON: See, I don't think it's a cliff. I reject the notion --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You think it's false? You think it's a false -- it's a false deadline?

ERICKSON: Yes. I absolutely do. I think that suddenly markets will not crash, the bottom will not fall out. The world will not end. What will happen is that it will force members of Congress who want to kick the can down the road on spending and entitlement reform to actually have to deal with those things.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Erick, thank you.

Many believe hitting the fiscal cliff will throw the country back into a recession. Either way, we'll have Erick Erickson back after all this plays out to see if it plays out as he sees it.

You know, it started out as a toy. Look at this. But now it can help protect people from landmines. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. Every year landmines kill as many as 20,000 people, most of them women, children and the elderly. But despite the maimings and the deaths, the maimings and the deaths they continue to be used as weapons of war and the cost to clear them has been very expensive until now. And an Afghan designer has created a low-tech high design minesweeper, something that kind of resembles a tumbleweed.

CNN's Azadeh Ansari is here.

So, Azadeh, this looks like something out of a science-fiction movie. What exactly is it?

AZADEH ANSARI, CNN INTERNATIONAL DESK EDITOR: Don, a tumbleweed from out of space is what it looks like, right?

LEMON: It's pretty cool looking, though.

ANSARI: Absolutely. And the Afghan designer modeled it after toys that he used to play with as a child. And the concept here is that you have this, it's about six feet in diameter and it weighs about 154 pounds. And so it's light enough to be propelled by the wind but heavy enough so that when it rolls over those landmines it detonates them upon contact. And it's made of a biodegradable plastic that's used to model feet at the bottom there.

LEMON: Right.

ANSARI: And then the actual legs are made of bamboo shoots.

LEMON: And we've seen like these -- or balls like this in little minesweeper things, it was designed. Tell us about it. Would he designed this --

ANSARI: So how did he -- why did he get the idea?

LEMON: Yes.

ANSARI: So it was a way to make a cheap and affordable technology that people could use to survey the lands that they live in. Especially in a lot of these hazardous terrains. Because right now the technology and the process is very expensive and labor, they can cost upwards of $1,000 just to clear one single mine. Not to mention that many of these need to be detonated manually. So this mine has an internal GPS as well. I want to point this out. Where it tracks the areas that it's cleared so that you know like how many mines it's cleared.

But skeptics say, look, it's still a work in progress and it might not be suitable for all terrains. That being said, I want to take a listen to a part of the video where you actually see the --

LEMON: Yes, let's do it. Do it. Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With each detonation the microphone loses one or two legs. Therefore it could potentially destroy three to four landmines in one journey as it -- to cheaply survey this danger in their own environment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So it just loses one to two legs?

ANSARI: One to two legs, Don. And when he says cheap, it's about $40. So we're talking hundreds -- thousands of dollars versus $40.

LEMON: You're kidding me.

ANSARI: No, and Princess Diana, you want -- you remember?

LEMON: Yes, Princess Diana, that was her thing. Landmines. We don't hear that much about them anymore.

ANSARI: We don't. And the recent statistic that we have from the United Nations suggests that there are 110 million active mines scattered across 70 countries with equal numbers stockpiled around the world still waiting to be planted. That is alarming and shocking to me. But the exhibit, I just want to point out that the inventor of this technology is looking to still raise money so that he can mass produce it on a grand scale.

And there will be an exhibit for our viewers who are in New York and they can see that in March in 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art.

LEMON: Very cool. I mean to me it sounds like a very good idea. I don't know the specifics behind it, but anything you can do to clear those mines.

ANSARI: Fascinating.

LEMON: I mean, obviously it will help.

ANSARI: Especially given how big of a problem it still continues to be.

LEMON: Absolutely. Thank you, Azadeh.

ANSARI: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Appreciate it.

So which list are you on? Santa's naughty list or nice list? I know which one I'm on, always.

(LAUGHTER)

Are we all just born on the naughty list? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At Johns Hopkins University Professor Roger Peng was hoping for a few extra students in his statistics course, so he signed up for a new program to put his lectures online.

PROF. ROGER PENG, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: I was expecting maybe a few thousand. FOREMAN (on camera): What did you get?

PENG: So in the end I had about 54,000 students enrolled. And about --

FOREMAN: Fifty-four thousand students in your course?

PENG: That's right.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Such is the rapidly exploding power of online learning. A old concept that is being newly embraced by dozens of the nation's top schools which want to reach more students, expand their influence and enhance their worldwide reputations at very little cost.

They are all offering classes online for free through companies like Coursera and the nonprofit edX, the joint venture of MIT and Harvard. And the response is astonishing.

ANANT AGARWAL, PRESIDENT, EDX: We had 10,000 students sign up in the first few hours that we opened enrollment. And this was at midnight U.S. time. And then the numbers went all the way up to 155,000 in a short amount of time. It was completely insane.

FOREMAN: Students are connecting from all over the world for all sorts of reasons. In Chicago Dawn Smith wanted improve her job skills with a free course in pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania. She loved the convenience, the quality, and the cost.

DAWN SMITH, STUDENT: Another 19 years of payments on my masters degree so I didn't necessarily want to add to the cost of that which was a big factor.

FOREMAN (on camera): Some educators point out that the immersive experience of attending a college can hardly be replicated by logging on to a laptop and that contact with professors is hugely limited online.

(Voice-over): But even critics admit this trend could open up education to hundreds of millions of people.

PENG: I have already taught more students than I ever could have hoped to teach, you know, in my entire career.

FOREMAN: And there is still a lot to learn.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Baltimore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: This past week a Wal-Mart survey found 78 percent of parents will buy the same amount of toys for their kids regardless if they were naughty or nice. So are these parents saying some of us are just born naughty? That it's human nature?

Human behavioral expert Wendy Walsh is with me now.

So, Wendy, remember that police officer who gave a homeless guy shoes in New York City this week? This was a top story --

WENDY WALSH, HUMAN BEHAVIORAL EXERT: I love that story.

LEMON: Yes. I love this story. It's a top story around the country, newspapers, websites, TV, everybody is talking about it. Now ultimately it's just a guy giving another guy some shoes which is great, but did that act of kindness get national attention because it's so out of nature? So do you think that we're born to be naughty?

WALSH: No, absolutely not. And to those parents who buy their kids the same amount of gifts, parents know there are no such thing as bad children, only misunderstood children, and why did that police officer's wonderful act of altruism give such -- get such national attention, Don? Because it's in all of us. We felt good watching it. We all have a kind of cellular empathy toward each other, and doing good works of kindness help us feel good.

LEMON: Wendy, I have to say I do commend this officer. I think he's a great guy. Nothing bad about the officer. I was surprised by all the attention that it got because my thinking is that people do this all the time. I mean, and I'm not patting myself on the back, I do things like this. I know you do things like this. Most of the people I know do acts of kindness like this all the time and I was surprised by all the attention it got, quite frankly.

WALSH: Well, it is the holiday season. We are looking for feel-good stories, and when we see these kinds of stories, we feel good. And we are reminded that everyone is basically good and we do care for each other.

LEMON: Yes. So that's great. And you know what was even better? That he didn't know he was being videotaped or that he was -- pictures were being taken, so good for him. Good for him. And he says New York City police officers do that all the time without the attention that he got so we commend them as well.

OK. So then what about that expression, nice guys finish last? A lot of people are nodding their heads right now saying, so, you know, if you want to succeed in business or whatever, isn't being nice going to keep you at the bottom of the rung?

WALSH: Well, you know that even the toughest guys in business have very important foot soldiers around them that they take good care of. What we're talking about is social intelligence that you can use to move between groups or move up a ladder, whether it's a corporate ladder or a social ladder. So that is also part of our species and it is involved in, you know, being good to each other, but being good to people who can help you rise and being very selective and social intelligence is a very special intelligence and not everyone has it.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Oh, Wendy, I love you. All right. So, you know, I believe in the good again. But also commend that officer and we need more -- maybe this -- let's hope that this starts a random act of kindness movement in the country, especially over this holiday season. WALSH: If only for ourself because random acts of kindness have been shown to relieve depression and lift our spirits so do it in a selfish way.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: I'm going to be doing a lot of it then this holiday season. I need it.

WALSH: OK.

LEMON: Thank you, Wendy.

WALSH: All right. Take care, Don.

LEMON: OK. So here's a new one for you. Is a new performance enhancing drug for professional athletes, well, a performance enhancing drug? Are pros now taking Viagra? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Kansas City Chiefs played the Carolina Panthers today as scheduled and they got just their second victory of the year. It was also just a day after Chiefs player Jovan Belcher allegedly killed his girlfriend, the mother of his 3-month-old child, then drove to the stadium, the team stadium, and he committed suicide.

Want to talk about this now with Terence Moore, sports contributor to CNN.com.

Terence, this is an awful, awful story.

TERENCE MOORE, CNN.COM SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

LEMON: Were they right to play this game?

MOORE: No question about it. Look, if the players want to play and if the coaches want to coach, you play the game. And Romeo Crennel, who witnessed the suicide, wanted to play, so you play. And this is not a November 22nd, 1963 situation, OK? Back then the commissioner of the NFL was a guy named Pete Rosel and Rosel said the worst decision of his life was to play two days after the Kennedy assassination. And you still have participants of that weekend who resent Rosel to this day. This is not that.

LEMON: Yes. This is something completely different. And you know the players have been talking about it. It's a sad situation, but that was the way they honored him partly today.

MOORE: Yes, and they won the game.

LEMON: And they won the game.

MOORE: Second time in 12 games.

LEMON: Yes. There you go. MOORE: Second victory in 12 games.

LEMON: Yes, so he was looking out for them. Let's put it that way.

Let's talk about college football now. National title game is set. Alabama won the classic game over Georgia last night right here in Atlanta. It was a madhouse here. They're going to play -- I know it's Notre Dame, I like to say Notre Dame -- for the championship.

Why is this pairing of team such a big deal?

MOORE: Well, you know I'm a little biased because I was born and raised in the South Bend, Indiana. Home of the (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Notre Dame.

MOORE: Yes. No question about it. But look, you've got two of the most storied programs in college football history going against each other. Alabama has won two of the last three national championships. The powerhouse going against this miracle team from Notre Dame.

LEMON: Look at that run. Did you see that -- look at that.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Right. But you know Notre Dame is very good against the run, too.

LEMON: Yes.

MOORE: And they've got the ghost, they've got Rochne, they got Leahy and Parseghian and all those people.

LEMON: Yes. I was hating on everybody because I'm an LSU Tiger. I was, like, whatever, who's playing. I was going for Georgia. I was going for Georgia because being -- as you know, from LSU, we hate the tide.

MOORE: Well, Georgia almost won. I mean they were right there. They were five yards away from winning the game and they probably should have won the game.

LEMON: Yes. Around the bowl, down the hole, roll tide roll.

(LAUGHTER)

All right. Finally, this one is really hard to believe. Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall says he's heard some players use Viagra to improve their game performance.

MOORE: That's what he sells.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDON MARSHALL, CHICAGO BEARS: Some guys, you know, they'll do -- they'll do whatever they can, you know, to get an edge. I've heard of some -- I heard crazy stories. I heard guys using like Viagra, seriously, because the blood -- I don't know, some crazy stuff. So you know, you know, it's kind of scary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE: Well -- what kind of ball game are they playing there?

LEMON: What?

MOORE: But I will say this. OK, Brandon is right because when it comes to professional athletes, OK, if somebody told them eating dog food before every game would help them, then that would be great. But you know what? All the medical experts say that this isn't so, and if it was so, then former Senator Bob Dole would be playing quarterback for the New York Jets or something, right?

LEMON: Yes.

MOORE: Remember the Viagra commercials?

LEMON: Yes.

MOORE: That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: We'll leave it at that. I do not want to get in trouble.

All right. Roll the open, Rob.