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Getting Rid of Violent Video Games; How the Fiscal Cliff Affects You; George Washington's Cow Endangered; Ex-Marine Imprisoned in Mexico to be Released

Aired December 21, 2012 - 15:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Calls for a worldwide cease-fire today. This is a cease-fire unlike any before. This is an online cease-fire. CEO and founder of Gamer Fit Nation calling for a day of mourning one week after that Newtown elementary school shooting.

And gamers across the world actually putting down their controllers as video games and gun violence are again under the microscope because of what happened a week ago.

In a statement to the nation today, that was, as you can see here, interrupted by not just one but two of these protesters, the NRA pointed a finger at violent video games.


LAPIERRE: There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stokes violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games with names like "Bulletstorm," "Grand Theft Auto," "Mortal Combat," and "Splatterhouse."


BALDWIN: And then there is this.

A 12-year-old boy loves his video games, lives, in all places Newtown, Connecticut. But he decided just this week he didn't want to kill anyone in just a game. He wants other kids to do the same.

That young man joins me now, Max Goldstein, along with his stepbrother, Jackson Mittleton, stepdad, Craig Mittleton. So, all three of you, welcome.

And I was standing in that exact spot just a couple of days ago and I just want to express, of course, our sympathies to a lot of the families there in your town.

But you guys are trying to take a negative perhaps here and turn it into a positive.

Max, let me begin with you. Why do you want to get rid of some of your video games? MAX GOLDSTEIN, 12-YEAR-OLD NEWTOWN RESIDENT: We wanted to get rid of the video games because of -- we feel that it's negatively affecting some of the minds and feelings of the youth of this nation and we just wanted to change that.

BALDWIN: Well, Max, those are pretty adult words here for, you know, a 12-year-old, but let me just -- I understand that you actually went to one of the funerals of one of those kids who was killed a week ago today and was it during the funeral, Max, you decided that this is not right?

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. Pretty much.

BALDWIN: Pretty much.

Jackson, to you, this movement that you guys have started, this is called "Played Out -- Choose Not To Play." I see you have some video games next to you. What are you doing with them?

JACKSON MITTLETON, 11-YEAR-OLD NEWTOWN RESIDENT: Well, what we're going to do with these games is we're going to put them in this container and we're planning to have our local garbage company destroy them.

BALDWIN: You're not only giving up the games you are literally having them destroyed. Is that right?

J. MITTLETON: Yes. That is right.

BALDWIN: How many games have you collected so far? Do you have any idea?

J. MITTLETON: None so far, but -- well, right now, all we have is these games, but we're planning to get a lot more.

BALDWIN: Planning to get a lot more.

All right, stepdad Craig, let me ask you. Just so I'm clear, this is not something you said to your kids, hey, this is the right thing to do. I mean, this is coming from them, is that right?

CRAIG MITTLETON, NEWTOWN PARENT: It is coming from them. I think my wife and I had a discussion recently about, obviously after these tragic events, that this is probably something to consider taking out of the home.

And I think the kids got the message and they decided to universally pick up all the mature violence games and Max came up with this brilliant idea and we thought maybe this is something that can catch the attention of other kids and other communities.

And I'm a big advocate of thinking globally and acting locally and I hope that this triggers a -- the minds of other parents and, mostly, other kids.

BALDWIN: Craig, I just have to ask the question that I know a lot of the viewers are wondering now, if we're talking -- some of the video games are violent, mature rating, you have to be 17 to buy them, and just let me ask you, you know, why were you buying them for your boys in first place?

C. MITTLETON: We bought these games -- I think our kids are kind. They're generous. They're compassionate. I think the spirit of this particular event in and of itself demonstrates that.

And I think that we have to be honest with ourselves and I think we have to be honest with America that there are parents and kids that play these games throughout the country, never with the intention that any of these are going to have an impact on their kids acting aggressively or violently.

I actually somewhat rebuff the comments today by the NRA that these are the direct and sole causal factor of the kind of violence we're dealing with.

But I think our kids want to make a statement and we talked about this that I don't think that there is any one of the parents or brothers or sisters or uncles who could play one of these games who's been recently victimized.

And this is a way that we are standing by them. And I think it's a way that the country can stand by them.

BALDWIN: Max and Jackson, just my final question to you, if we're talking about violent video games, how do you feel about violent movies?

MITTLETON: I think violent movies are just the same. They have the same cause as these games and they don't really do anything different than these games do.

BALDWIN: Max, what are you going to do with your free time now? Now that you're not playing these games?

GOLDSTEIN: Could you repeat that actually?

BALDWIN: No, I know that creek is very loud.

If you're throwing away your video games, what are you -- how are you going to spend your free time now?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, I'll spend my free time by spending more time with my friends. They live probably like five minutes away from us.

I'm probably going to, like, if I do play video games, play, like soccer games or sports games or racing games or something like that. Spend more time studying, I guess.

BALDWIN: Spend more time studying. I hear Craig chuckling a little bit. That's not a bad thing, Max.

Max Goldstein, Jackson and Craig Mittleton, thank you so, so much for coming on. We really appreciate it. And, listen, this is really getting traction. In fact, in Congress, Senator Jay Rockefeller introducing a bill to study the effect violent video games have on children and the video game lobby, ESA, they have responded. Let me read that for you here.

"Any such study needs to include the years of extensive research that has shown no connection between entertainment and real life violence." That coming from the ESA.

Just when Americans start to feel better about the economy, it is looking more and more likely we are going over the fiscal cliff.

Coming up next, forget the politics. Ali Velshi explains what this means for your paycheck, your taxes, your family and your future.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just days to go and the threat of the fiscal cliff looks like reality now. What are you going to contend with come January 1st?

I'm Ali Velshi. This is "Your Money." "Plan B" fizzles and Republicans have no backup plan, stocks tank on Wall Street because Washington can't get it together and BlackBerry's in a bit of a pickle.

But first ...


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Unless the president and Congress take action, tax rates will go up on every American taxpayer and devastating defense cuts will go into effect in 10 days.


VELSHI: I'm not going to bore you too much with details of how useless your elected officials are in Washington because they can't even get a framework of a deal together to avert the fiscal cliff.

And instead of working around the clock to avoid the abyss, they're heading home for the holidays where they get to take a few days off to sit with their families by the fire side and get in some good football on TV.

Meanwhile, you get nothing from them, but a stock market sell-off that wipes out some of your gains that your 401(k) achieved in 2012 and more economic uncertainty right when the economy is starting to take off.

What you need to know now is how this fiscal cliff stuff affects you starting on January 1st. Jeanne Sahadi has been following this for longer than most.

She's a senior writer at CNN Money. Jeanne, what is going to happen? What do our viewers need to know about what is likely to happen at the beginning of the year?

JEANNE SAHADI, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY: In terms of tax filing, that may get delayed. The IRS came out this week and said, dear lawmakers, if we do not get a fix for the alternative minimum tax, this year, that protects the middle class on their 2012 tax return, up to 100 million returns will not be able to be processed until late March.

So, that's going to mean that refunds will get delayed. There is -- you know, in the first three months of the year, typically about $117 billion to $130 billion in refunds are paid out. So, that money will not be going into the economy if, in fact, this plays out to the nth degree, which it might.

Filing season begins in mid-January, so possibly if they come up with a deal December 31st or January 2nd, maybe that won't happen, but we're pushing it.

VELSHI: All right, for now, there's really nothing you can do except sit tight and hope they come up with a deal and somebody tells somebody what that deal is so your taxes can get filed properly and your paycheck can be cut property.

Jeanne Sahadi is following this very closely on CNN Money. Go to and check out some of her writing.

Again, the fiscal cliff looks like it could be reality, so get ready.

On the money menu, stocks tumble today as investors start to fear the worst from Washington's inability to get a deal done that averts the fiscal cliff. That's too bad because the latest economic indicators show that Americans are themselves feeling more confident.

Personal income and the savings rate both rose in November. That, all on the heels of the latest upward revision to the growth in the third quarter. That's GDP. Let's hope all that consumer confidence isn't for naught.

Meanwhile, shares of RIMM, the maker of BlackBerry handhelds just got slammed. Sales and subscribers fell in the last quarter. The BlackBerry is losing ground in the corporate market as more I.T. departments let employees use whatever phones they like.

BlackBerry wants to make a comeback with its new BlackBerry 10 scheduled for release January 30th, a year later than originally planned.

Finally, I just want to say that political impasse in Washington is really thwarting what could otherwise be an economic renaissance in America. Let me explain. As I said earlier, Americans are feeling more confident and they're spending more. 2013 could be the start of a real economic renaissance that leads to a new boom in prosperity in America.

So, it's kind of pathetic that when things start to look good for the new year, our politicians are callous enough to start it with a fiscal disaster that could push us back into a recession. Happy holidays, Washington.

For more in-depth coverage of the issues, tune in to "Your Money" this weekend, Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm out.


BALDWIN: We have been following this case of this former U.S. Marine here jailed in Mexico because of a gun he tried to bring into the country. We have new details today.

We have been talking to Florida Senator Bill Nelson who says Jon Hammar is expected to be released. This is after four months in a prison believed to be controlled by a drug cartel. His parents have been getting frightening phone calls from that place.

Mexican police arrested him when he tried to cross the border. He was going from Brownsville, Texas, into Matamoros, Mexico, in August and they alleged he had an illegal shotgun on him.

Turned out this was a family heirloom. He says it was cleared by U.S. customs, but, police, they tossed him in jail anyway.

I want to bring in Sunny Hostin, "On the Case" with me today. And, Sunny, we've talked about this. Jon Hammar, you know, he was planning on driving through Central America, headed to Costa Rica to just go on a surf vacation because he was suffering PTSD after serving our country.

Does he have any legal recourse?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the interesting thing is that I think when we look at cases like this, we look at it from our perspective as Americans.

And when we feel we're wronged, what do we do? We look to our justice system, right? So, we look to sue someone or we look to get our government involved.

Well, who do you sue if you're Jon Hammar? You can't sue the Mexican drug cartels for unlawfully imprisoning you. You can't sue the Mexican government. So this very much has been a diplomatic sort of mission and that's why we saw our congressmen and women getting very involved and pressuring our Homeland Security folks as well as the secretary of state to get him released.

So, that really was the goal here. You want him to be released. And a Mexican judge said today they're going to drop any felony charges. He will be released. And that was really the endgame here.

Will he get any sort of money from being falsely imprisoned as he is alleging? No, I don't think so. But I think he want his freedom a lot more.

BALDWIN: And his parents, I'm sure, will be happy, happy to have him home. I want to talk about this other case. This is an update to a house explosion that wiped out five homes in an Indianapolis neighborhood last month. Look at this. This was the aftermath here.

Two people died, 12 people were hurt. Investigators say a homeowner, her boyfriend and the boyfriend's brother -- are you following me? They all tampered with the gas line and a valve, caused this massive explosion.

They're facing hundreds of charges, including conspiracy and felony arson. Police didn't know why this -- you know, what seemed like a random explosion, they didn't know why it happened.

Walk me through the evidence against these people.

HOSTIN: It really is pretty impressive. I mean, apparently, they called the gas company several times, trying to get information about natural gas and gas lines. Then they took things out of the home that were valuable so that their things wouldn't be destroyed, Brooke.

And so there is certainly is a lot of evidence showing premeditation in this and what is remarkable is it looks like they did it for the money because we know that some of these defendants have told -- for insurance, they've told people that their house was worth $300,000 and $400,000.

And what's terrible is they exacted about $4.4 million in damage and ruined people's lives, I mean, over, I think, three dozen homes were demolished as a result of this. I mean, this is arson of the worst type. And, of course, there were two fatalities, as well.

BALDWIN: Horrendous. Horrendous. Sunny Hostin, thank you.

HOSTIN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Talk about the weather. It's a mess. Many of you trying to get home or maybe somewhere warm for the holidays.

Here's the deal -- interstates closed, massive pileups, thousands without power in the cold.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.


BALDWIN: This storm continues to wreak havoc, inconvenience here. We'll tell you which areas are in its path next as it moves eastward, next.


BALDWIN: Well the weekend is almost here, not that you're counting down or anything. Time to pack up the car, hit the roads for the holidays, perhaps hopping the plane.

Let me warn you, though, this Goliath of a storm that has hammered the Midwest the last couple of days, that storm, look at this.

This storm is spreading into the Northeast right now from Iowa, Wisconsin, to Pennsylvania, New England. Thankfully, though, we're hearing the storm has weakened, but parts of northeast, western New York will see snow tonight and into tomorrow.

Strong winds, heavy winds will delay some of you who plan to travel some this weekend. Lashing winds, blinding snow, look at this truck here, covered, stranded on roads this week.

The storm caused at least 100 accidents so far and now an emergency company is working to get power back on here to more than 7,000 people in Iowa. That is down from 20,000 just this morning.

And, sadly, two people have died after a blinding snow caused a pileup in Iowa yesterday.

And let's talk about those packages. UPS says your holiday packages, delayed. Maybe experiencing unavoidable delays, they say. The blizzard hit its main port in Kentucky pretty hard.

And every year right around this time, conservationists come up with the world's most endangered animals and, if they wanted to, they could include George Washington's cow.

The breed, yes, that the first president owned was, in fact, critically endangered just a couple of years back, but an unusual conservation effort has the cow on the comeback trail.

Dan Lothian has this American journey.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You are looking at one of the rarest, most endangered animals on the planet, the Randall Lineback cow. They are more endangered than polar bears, mountain gorillas, pandas or tigers.

It's estimated there are fewer than 500 of these cows left on this planet. Not in some far-flung corner of the world, but most right here on a bucolic farm in northern Virginia.

Joe Henderson, a real estate executive and part-time farmer, is on a mission to save this historic breed of cattle from going extinct.

JOE HENDERSON, FARMER, CHAPEL HILL FARMS: I mean, you cannot look at these cows and tell me that they're not beautiful because they really are.

And those little teeny babies ...

LOTHIAN: They're cute.

HENDERSON: You've got to pay them more than cute. I mean, they are ...

LOTHIAN: What did you call them? The pandas ...

HENDERSON: They're the pandas of the cow world.

LOTHIAN: But it's very expensive raising these "bovine pandas."

HENDERSON: This animal to survive must find a job. I think we've found a job and the job is ...

CATHAL ARMSTRONG, EXECUTIVE CHEF, RESTAURANT EVE: It is kind of counterintuitive that to rescue this breed you have to consume them.

LOTHIAN: Cathal Armstrong is a top chef in Washington, D.C. His Restaurant Eve has been serving the Randall Lineback for four years, a pleasure for the pallet and conservation is an extra side dish.

Many diners would hardly recognize this organic, lean, grass-fed meat as beef, a far cry from the fatty marbled steaks that American diners crave and more than three times the cost, meaning only exclusive chefs like Armstrong can get their hands on the difficult to prepare meat.

HENDERSON: This is never going to be in McDonald's. This animal has got to go to higher-end use.

LOTHIAN: What's the most important thing, that you're saving a cow or that you're creating this new eating experience?

HENDERSON: I mean, for me, the most important thing is you're saving an animal that would otherwise go extinct. I think it's a piece of nature and natural beauty that just needs to be kept going.

LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Chapel Hill Farms, Virginia.


BALDWIN: He lived a life of crime, wanted for murder, but using disguises and friends, he has been able to stay one step ahead of police until now.

The sudden capture of one of America's most wanted fugitives, next.


BALDWIN: He was elusive and managed to avoid capture multiple times, In fact, police say he used dozens of aliases just to stay one step ahead.

He even made the U.S. marshals most-wanted fugitives list and now the manhunt is over. The feds have their man.

The man is Felipe Torrealbe. He's been on the run for a year now. We're told he was hiding in a townhouse in Fort Myers, Florida.

So, this guy is a career criminal, a laundry list of charges, but investigators really want to ask him about a murder earlier this year along with drug and violent assault cases.

Let me just run through here some of what police found. Two handguns, $15,000 in cash, a pair of binoculars and a wig. Clearly, this man had planned to stay on the run for quite a long time. He was number 15 on the U.S. marshals fugitive list.

And before we go, let's go ahead and pop up the Big Board and I can take a look at the Dow with you as we're now hearing from folks on Capitol Hill. As many have left town for Christmas, it sounds like we very well may be going over the fiscal cliff.

The markets perhaps responding just a little bit to that, the Dow down 117 points as we are seconds away from the closing bell.

Much more on that with Wolf Blitzer. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins right now.