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White House Plan: Extend Jobless Insurance Benefits; Bill Nye on Climate Change Education; Hazmat Situation Shuts Down Atlanta Elementary School; Henry Winkler Takes on New Role

Aired December 3, 2012 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for being with us.

A quiz at 30 minutes past the hour, it's not hard. Really. Depressing maybe. Hard, no. It's the fiscal cliff quiz courtesy of our friends at And here is the question. How many households would pay more taxes in 2013 if we go over the fiscal cliff? Everyone? About half? 75 percent? Or nearly 90 percent? OK. Here's the answer.

Nearly 90 percent of households would face a higher tax burden. The average tax increase would be $3,500. So when you hear words like "flabbergasted", "rope-a-dope" and our not so favorite "nonstarter", you're right to be alarmed. Just like Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on CBS's "Face the Nation."


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And I think we're going over the cliff. It's pretty clear to me they've made a political calculation. This offer doesn't remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy. And the President's plan when it comes to entitlement reform is just -- is just quite frankly a joke so I don't think they're serious about finding a deal.


COSTELLO: Is it inevitable? Will we fall off that cliff? White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is in Washington and here in Atlanta with me is CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. Welcome to you both.

OK Brianna let's start with you, the President offered a plan that included tax increases in some cuts to entitlements. But he knew probably that Republicans would not like that deal so why offer it to them?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes that's right. $1.6 trillion in increased taxes which you know Republicans are not a fan of and about $400 billion in cuts. So Republicans will say that's now enough, that's just a fraction compared to increasing taxes. It's not balanced the way the President says he wanted.

But the White House and Democrats feel, Carol, like they have a lot of leverage here. They feel like polls show that people will be quick to blame Republicans as getting in the way of a deal or certainly blame Republicans more if the country were to actually go over the fiscal cliff and also they feel like they've kind of got Republicans in a corner because these income tax rates are set to increase in everyone at the end of the year and so they can kind of hold that over their heads.

Now, at the same time, obviously, the issue here continuing to be tax rates and the White House really wants to deal with that now. They want to increase tax rates on the wealthy and then they want to deal with tax reform, entitlement reform later. Somehow maybe link the two but deal with that later and so they're -- they're really drawing this line in the sand as you heard Timothy Geithner say that the tax rates need to go up for wealthy Americans.

COSTELLO: OK, so there's a strategy here. So Ana Navarro, Republican strategist, why aren't Republicans offering their own plan in return? Isn't that how you negotiate?

ANNA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think at first they wanted to see what the President was going to put on the table. They've now seen it. They don't like it. It doesn't have enough cuts in spending, it doesn't have enough entitlement reform. They want that. But I think what we're watching right now is and we'll see it for the next few days play out, a lot of posturing.

This is a game of chicken. Who is going to blink first? Look, the bottom line is that we're going to reach a compromise. Both teams are going to have to do something they don't want to do and that it's going to be painful for them to swallow. But that's something and that's something that takes a while to assimilate in your brain --

COSTELLO: But we only have like 28 days in.

NAVARRO: But you know what, Carol? 28 days in Washington is like dog years. If they want to get something done, they can do a lot of things in 28 days. Or they can do nothing. It's, you know, it's one or the other.

It -- you know, it concerns me and it troubles me that a lot of times when we're talking about this fiscal cliff, there's a lot of people on both sides saying, oh, you know let's just go over the cliff but the people I see and I hear saying those things on TV are people for whom $3,000 more in taxes don't mean anything. It's not going to mean one less pair of shoes or less Christmas gifts for their kids.

I would like to hear the people who are poor, who are living paycheck to paycheck, who would be affected opine and be on TV and say this is what it would mean for us and I think it would pressure both sides to come to the table. COSTELLO: Well, it's a good point you bring up and it's interesting you bring that up since you're a Republican because Brianna, isn't it true that President Obama is trying to do just that by taking his plans directly to the American people?

KEILAR: Yes. That's right. He did that last week. He's meeting with business leaders this week. He'll be addressing the business roundtable and I think there is a sort of a lesson that was learned, Carol. You saw the debt ceiling debate that went on last year and there were all these meetings that went on between the White House and congressional leaders and they didn't really seem like they were working.

So that doesn't really work to President Obama's advantage so the strategy they're taking is trying to kind of go outside, get some pressure going. And they don't really want to have a meeting with congressional leaders unless something is really going to come out of it or else they kind of lose a little bit of their mojo. You know the President does in the process of it but I do think it's interesting what -- what Ana says and I think a lot of people are concerned because two weeks ago you have this real Kumbaya feeling and you're not feeling that right now.

But I -- I do agree it's only December 3rd. In the way these things work and we saw this in the payroll tax cut last year, the debt ceiling, the near-government shutdown last year . If you are going to blink you kind of wait until the last moment to do it.

COSTELLO: When no one notices.

KEILAR: Yes. So I think you know in a couple of weeks that's when you really maybe are looking for more movement.

COSTELLO: We'll see. Brianna Keilar, Ana Navarro thank you so much for joining us this morning.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Imagine if sea level rose by two feet. That could actually happen within our children's lifetimes. Scientists say ice in Antarctica is melting a lot faster than expected. Bill Nye the science guy will join us next.


COSTELLO: Did you know there was a big climate change conference in Qatar? I didn't think so. Even during a year with freakish weather, Sandy the latest extreme weather system, we're not talking much about climate change and Sandy brought us flooding in New York City and a blizzard in West Virginia. Yet, many politicians believe the pattern of extreme weather is natural.

Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer among them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Everybody has an opinion on it. You know? And I -- you know, I probably don't believe that it's manmade. I believe that, you know, whether in certain elements are controlled maybe by different things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's no doubt a hot button as we found out after we ask the governor that question.

BREWER: Where in the hell did that come from?


COSTELLO: She said "Where in the hell did that question come from?" Well, the reporter asked Brewer that because she was just about to go in to the Western Governors Association to talk about energy. Bill Nye the science guy is here to talk about climate change. Hi, Bill.


COSTELLO: Greetings. So when you hear --

NYE: Carol.

COSTELLO: When you hear Jan Brewer, you say --

NYE: Well, we as science educators have a lot of work to do. Climate change is being caused by people and there's new find where the ice sheets are melting a little faster than anybody expected. Sea levels are going to go up a little faster than anybody expected. So these populated areas like the East Coast where Sandy hit are going to be affected. People are going to have well - they're going to have to move or take extraordinary steps, steps that people haven't taken before.

COSTELLO: Yes I want to ask you about that. Some people -- some people say that they shouldn't rebuild along the shores. What do you think?

NYE: Well, I think the answer there is clearly it depends. It depends if you have the resources to build the infrastructure or the sea walls, the gates, the channels that would allow you to tolerate or absorb a storm like Sandy. And I remind everybody Sandy was not an especially big hurricane. If we get a bigger hurricane and those sea levels a little higher, the effects are going to be bigger. And more costly and that's here in the developed world.

COSTELLO: Well -- well, let's see. If sea levels rise two to feet over a century, what exactly does that mean for coastal areas and places susceptible to storm surge?

NYE: There's going to be more flooding. And you see how costly it is. I mean, we spent -- estimates vary but more than $20 billion to clean this thing up and it's not cleaned up yet and that's just this year with a small relatively small hurricane. And people think of this one 00 people say a meter or two to three feet in the next century. It's not like it's going to go 100 years and then click there will be level rise.

It will rising every year from here on out so I would like -- I'd like the United States to lead the way in this.

COSTELLO: Well, it's not exactly doing right that now. The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose again last year by three percent and that also sound so innocuous it's like, but what does it mean?

NYE: Well, here is the thing. When you say pollution, by the way, it's a little -- it's easy to conflate or mix together the two ideas of greenhouse gases and pollution. But they're both -- if you're a human trying to live here they're both undesirable. The -- the thing is it's the rate. It's the speed at which the atmosphere is changing. That's what we try to impress on people. It's not just that there are more parts per million of carbon dioxide or methane, or water vapor. It's how fast they're increasing. That's what's going to be troublesome for, well, for everybody.

COSTELLO: OK so when you say -- this is the final question. When you say that America should lead the way in climate change, what's the first step that President Obama should take?

NYE: Well getting cars to go farther on a gallon of gas is a great -- that's a great first step. The other thing is to make our infrastructure more durable which would be to let's say for example bury power lines.

But the big thing is education and producing a generation of engineers and scientists who can think deeply about these problems and innovate to come up with new ideas to address them if we have ways to move electricity around and to store electricity and to do more with less, to do more with less electricity we could, dare I say it, change the world.

COSTELLO: Oh I like that.

NYE: But if we sit back -- if we sit back and let other economies go ahead and get to work on this, we are not going to be the inventors and innovators that -- that really the world has counted on for the last 150 years. It is a -- it's an exciting time in a sense. It's -- we're in a crossroads.


NYE: Let's -- let's see if we can get out there and --

COSTELLO: Pick the right road, right?

NYE: And be the first and that best at this.

COSTELLO: Bill Nye, pick the right road, right? Yes.

NYE: Yes, yes I'm hopeful.

COSTELLO: Bill Nye, "The Science Guy", thanks so much for being with us this morning.

NYE: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We'll be back.


COSTELLO: As you know, we are following a developing story out of Atlanta. At least 26 people, including some children have been taken to the hospital after a hazmat situation shut down an elementary school. This is all according to WXIA, CNN affiliate says people were simply overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.

Happened at Finch Elementary in southwest Atlanta. A school district spokesman tells us the rest of the students are safe and they have been moved to a nearby middle school.

We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: All right. I have a very special guest joining me in the studio. That would be Henry Winkler.


COSTELLO: Hi. It's so great to have you here.

WINKLER: You, too.

COSTELLO: Many of you probably know him as the Fonz, the iconic character Winkler played on ABC's "Happy Days". And he's here this morning to talk about something serious. About a little known but deeply personal topic -- upper limb spasticity or ULS. It's a debilitating neurological condition that affects nearly 1 million people in the United States. It's very common after a stroke.

Henry, welcome.

WINKLER: Hi. We just -- let me just say we've just had a great chat during the commercial break. Really a pleasure to be here.

COSTELLO: He's given me some great advice. And I appreciate that. But let's talk about this condition because I've never heard of it before.

WINKLER: It usually happens after the patient is at home, maybe with a therapist but the doctor visits are over. And the secondary muscles in the upper limbs start to take over for the primary muscles that now are damaged because of the stroke, because a major head injury, spinal cord injury.

And you've seen it a million times. The arm is frozen into place. The fingers are frozen against the palm. Sometimes -- I met a woman in Dallas whose arm was frozen out to the side. Her children called it their chicken wing. But this therapeutic use of botox is pretty amazing to me.

COSTELLO: Let's go back to the condition because you said it's very painful. It just doesn't simply freeze your muscles.

WINKLER: It doesn't freeze your muscle. It freezes it in place and it is painful. It's unsightly. It also damages the point of view and the way that the patient feels about themselves. It's very difficult for the caregiver to even dress the patient.

C1: And your mother suffered this.

WINKLER: Yes. She had a stroke for ten years. And the reason I started traveling around the country talking about this, is that I thought, oh, I wonder what would happen if my mother had the opportunity for this new tool in the doctor's tool box.

COSTELLO: So it just botox. It didn't take some miraculous discovery of some new drug it was just botox.

WINKLER: Right. Botox was first used neurologically and then it was cosmetic. And they have found a million uses for it and one of them, is this therapeutic use for upper limb spasticity and today right here in Atlanta at 12:00 I'm going to be at the Shepherd Center talking to caregivers, doctors and patients.

COSTELLO: You're saying that not every doctor in the United States knows --

Winkler: Knows about this.

COSTELLO: -- knows this, which was kind of shocking to me because you think that, you know, they would brush up on the latest drugs to use for certain conditions.

WINKLER: Right, right. About a million people every year suffers a stroke. And, you know, it has to be handled very, very delicately because the botox is diluted for the patient specifically. It is a muscle specific. So, you know, you have to go to your doctor, go to the caregiver and talk to them about it.

COSTELLO: You're doing this in your spare time because you're one busy guy.

WINKLER: Yes. Well, I'm having a great life. It's true. Lyn and I, Lyn Oliver my writing partner, was starting our 24th children's novel "Ghost Buddy", the fourth "Ghost Buddy". And that is very exciting because they're very funny and kids write us great letters.

December 16th there is a two-hour movie on USA for "Royal Pains". I play the dad. And I love that a lot.

COSTELLO: Do you? You don't miss being the sex symbol guy?

WINKLER: No, because -- you know what; inside.

COSTELLO: You still are the sex symbol guy to me. WINKLER: Thank you, carol. You know, underneath, I have abs that are to kill except you need an x ray. But I'm -- they're there.

COSTELLO: Can you do the Fonz thing?

WINKLER: For you?


WINKLER: Hey babe.

COSTELLO: I love that. Thank you so much.

WINKLER: Thank you for chatting.

COSTELLO: I appreciate it. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question for you today: Should the Perkins/Belcher tragedy cause us to rethink gun control? A lots of response this morning. Thanks so much.

This from Debbie: "If a disease were killing the massive numbers of American that guns do the greatest minds in the country would be searching for a cure. My right live trumps your right to own a gun."

This is from Jill: "Absolutely no. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Fully automatic assault weapons should be controlled but you can't take away our Second Amendment rights. It's not a gun they find another way to take a life if that's what they decided to do."

This from Denise: "Most other advanced countries have very strict gun control and they have much less gun violence and killing than we have in the United States."

And this from Nick: "You don't blame a spoon for making people fat. So why would you blame the gun he would have done this act with or without it."

Please continue the conversation. Thanks as always for your comments.

And thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.