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CNN NEWSROOM

Nation Honors School Victims This Hour; "Plan B" Failure; Stocks React to Fiscal Cliff Drama; Wild Winter Weather

Aired December 21, 2012 - 09:30   ET

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


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These are some of the things a lot of people here are thinking about and people need comfort.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You're right, Jason.

CARROLL: And the people in the church are hoping that's what they get.

COSTELLO: I hope so. We're going to pause because it's 9:30 Eastern Time and await the bells.

(BELL TOLLING)

(MOMENT OF SILENCE)

(BELL TOLLING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will never forget them, Lord God, and we pledge to honor their memory by doing what we all know to be right. Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much. We have just a few others who are going to also share with us.

Dr. Rajwant Singh representing the Sikh community that has been particularly affected by gun violence will come next.

DR. RAJWANT SINGH, SIKH COMMUNITY: Just we pray for our children --

(BELL TOLLING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jack Pinto, age 6.

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Noah Pozner, age 6.

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Caroline Previdi, age 6.

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jessica Rekos, also age 6.

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Avielle Richman, age 6.

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Benjamin Wheeler, age 6.

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Allison Wyatt, age 6.

(BELL TOLLS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please welcome, (INAUDIBLE).

("AMAZING GRACE")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Forty-two minutes past the hour.

Checking our top stories now: NATO says Syria is firing more Scud missiles in an attempt to quash rebel gains. NATO's Secretary-General calling the action, quote, "acts of a desperate regime approaching collapse." These pictures claim to show damage from those attacks. CNN cannot independently verify that.

In North Korea, a United State citizen has been arrested. State media reported that Pae Jun Hu has been arrested for unspecific crimes against the country. State news agency says that Pae entered North Korea on November 3rd as a tourist and has confessed to the offense and will face legal action.

In just an hour, the NRA will hold its first press conference since the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The gun rights lobbying group was silent for days following the tragedy and then on Wednesday, the NRA released a statement saying it's prepared to offer, quote, "meaningful contributions to the debate on gun control."

In money news this morning, Amazon jumping into original content unveiling six pilot projects and plans to let users vote which ones actually go into production. Shows range from Washington politics to a cartoon featuring intergalactic warships. No word yet on when user also get to see them.

And the blizzard that caused such chaos across the Midwest is expected to weaken today. Everybody say yay! But look at all the cars stranded in the snow in Wisconsin. The storm blamed for at least two deaths in a 30-car pileup in Iowa. Now, you're going to see the damage. In Illinois, the snow caused whiteout conditions, power outages and, of course, many, many school closings.

Huge crowds celebrates the winter solstice at Stonehenge in England today. More than 5,000 changed and danced and beat drums during sunrise. The solstice is the shortest day of the year and, of course, marks the first day of winter. On to American politics now. Members of Congress will be home for Christmas, but they won't be bringing a fiscal cliff deal with them. The drama on Capitol Hill last night was intense as Speaker of the House John Boehner tried to push his plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff through the House of Representatives. But in the end, the votes just weren't there. The speaker pulled the bill from the floor.

CNN's Dana Bash joins us now. And, Dana, last night you tweeted, "Holy wow." So --

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was trying to keep my reaction G-rated on Twitter. It was -- it really was a stunner, you know watching the whole thing go down the scramble to get votes all day long turn into a panic when it became clear watching Republican leaders on the floor trying to get votes for the what was supposed to be this vote on Plan B later in the evening.

It was clear that they didn't have the votes and so then there was an emergency meeting of all House Republicans. And the Speaker inside said we don't have the votes we're just going to have to go home and you could -- you could hear from the outside where I was some booing, some cheering for various things that are being -- we're said inside but there are a lot of conservatives who just could not, their arms could not be twisted because they did not think philosophically principally it was the right thing to do even to raise taxes on millionaires. Some people making $1 million or more, which is what this bill would do.

No matter how much the Republican leadership try they couldn't get the votes and that's primarily because the Democrats really held their own, everybody in line, they were not going to vote for what they call the political show vote and so -- so they just -- the leadership couldn't get the votes. And it was -- it was not an easy thing for the Speaker because he stood at this podium where he's going to have a press conference pretty sure in a few minutes.

Just yesterday making clear he thought he did have the votes and more importantly making the political argument, Carol, that this was important for Republicans to do to show the American people that they do believe that 99.8 percent of the public should keep their taxes but millionaires they can get a tax increase.

COSTELLO: Well all of them Democrats and Republicans are certainly affecting the stock market today. Dana Bash, you stay right there we'll get to you in the next hour of the NEWSROOM because that -- that fiscal cliff drama is already affecting the stock market. Investors seem -- well, investors and all the rest of us actually are getting nervous about a deal ever getting done.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. Oh 116 points down though.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes only 15 minutes into the trading day already down for the DOW 117 points. You know what, I kind of seeing a shift in attitude today. Because if you see what's been over the past few weeks Wall Street has actually been banking on a deal on the fiscal cliff and you can see that in how stocks have performed. If you look at the S&P 500 it's up over the past month.

Well guess what? Now Wall Street is nervous, one analyst says this Plan B vote it was kind of a litmus test for Congress's ability to work out a concrete solution. And the way Wall Street sees it now this is a sign of gridlock.

But here's the silver lining for you. If you look at how the S&P 500 has done this year it's up 15 percent so just to put that in perspective, get ready for a tough Friday but it's hardly -- and so it's hardly time to panic. Some analyst say the sell-off though they think won't even last through the end of the day so they're a little bit more optimistic -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So could a sell-off like this influence Washington to get something done?

KOSIK: You know what; a sell-off could be a wake-up call for Congress, you know, to stop playing chicken with the economy and it has worked before. You look at 2008, stocks sold off after the House initially rejected a bank bailout. Congress eventually came around and passed it. It may take a -- it may take you know one of these direct hits like this to give lawmakers a kick in the butt, to be quite honest with you. You know especially since we've been hearing the dire warning of a recession if we do go over the fiscal cliff.

You look at what companies are doing, they're already cutting back on spending and you know what the reality is it's sometimes hard for the gravity of the fiscal cliff situation to really register in politicians' minds, you know, unless you see the swift and strong reaction on Wall Street when you see the DOW down 129 points within the first 15 minutes of the trading day.

So who knows if this will resonate. It can't hurt as far as maybe getting them in gear to take some action -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well I'll pray at midnight mass on Christmas Eve; we'll see if that helps. Alison Kosik, thanks so.

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, a mess as people are trying to get away for the holidays. Interstates closed by massive pile-ups, thousands without power. Now the digging out and cleaning up begins all across the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Today people in Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Northeast will have to deal with the winter blast. And the Midwest is probably happy to see the storm leave. The first blizzard of the season left quite a mess.

Near Ft. Dodge, Iowa, two people died in this 30-car pileup. The Iowa state patrol says blinding snow was to blame. Right now at least 20,000 people in Iowa don't have power. Most of the outages are centered around Des Moines. More than a foot of snow has fallen there and also in neighboring Wisconsin.

But in the south it wasn't about snow, it was about a tornado. A tornado that left this damage, this EF-1 tornado hit in Mobile early Thursday morning leaving a seven-mile path of destruction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I know when I was laying down on the couch after I fed my baby, whatever, and all the lights just went off, and I mean when the lights just went off and I just heard a boom real loud and then the tornado was like over my house, roaring over my house and my whole house was just I mean, shaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Oh Victor Blackwell joins us from Cleveland, Ohio, with more on this wild winter weather, and boy, it looks like a beautiful day in Cleveland today, Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Beautiful. It's called Chamber of Commerce weather for the city of Cleveland. It's snowing sideways. The snow is coming in from Lake Erie and every once in a while we get one of these gusts that force me to kind of turn my back to that wind because it puts the big fat snowflakes right in our faces, but this city says that they are prepared for what has already been a really dangerous and deadly storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: The middle of the country is starting to dig out from a blustery snowstorm. In Waterloo, Iowa, shovels and snowplows are back in use after more than eight inches of snow fell. Good news for many businesses after a lackluster season a year ago.

JEFF BRESSON, BLACK HAWK RENTAL: I've been delivering a lot of snow blowers, a lot of equipment has been breaking. We have been fixing equipment for people to get snow removed.

BLACKWELL: Picturesque in Wisconsin, good for building snowmen but a challenge for crews clearing roads.

RICK HEISLER, DIRECTOR, PUBLIC WORKS: The snow is so wet. There's a lot of moisture content in. A lot of build up on -- on the front of the plows and very hard for the snow to scour off the plows.

BLACWALL: Storm conditions have caused havoc on a lot of roadways and left thousands of residents without power in the Midwest. Inside airports, anxious travelers facing flight delays and cancellations.

BILLY JACOBS, TRAVELER: We're in for it. Yes, I think it will be -- hopefully if it says what it is right now, we'll just be a little late.

BLACKWELL: In the south a possible tornado touching down in Mobile, Alabama damaging cars at this dealership, and in Tennessee strong winds knocked trees onto roofs ushering in winter with some extreme weather promising to bring more troubles as Christmas travel gets into full swing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about that Christmas travel because I got an update not too long ago from the Chicago Department of Aviation. They're in control of Midway and O'Hare, some very busy airports.

Yesterday there were 350 cancellations at O'Hare. Today thus far there have been 40. Yesterday there were 150 at midway. Today no cancellations so far at midway, but 12 delays of about 30 minutes. We'll get the next update at about 11:30 eastern.

But again, Cleveland is up next, as this snowstorm that went across the rest of the Midwest is coming across the lake. And as you can see, it's snowing sideways. No accumulation yet but we'll see, Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm from near Cleveland, so I'm kind of used to that weather, but I'm going to try to fly home to Ohio later this afternoon and I just hope my mom has some nice homemade chicken soup for me.

BLACKWELL: It's so much fun.

COSTELLO: I know. Victor Blackwell.

BLACKWELL: It's a beautiful day.

COSTELLO: I know, but it's a beautiful city though, Cleveland. Thank you, Victor.

In just a few minutes we're expecting to hear from House Speaker John Boehner on where we are in, you know, this fiscal cliff mess. Last night was intense as Boehner tried to push his plan through the House of Representatives. You know, Plan B. But in the end the votes were not there. The Speaker pulled Plan B from the floor. We're going to hear from the Speaker in the next hour.

We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)