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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Fury of Winter's First Big Storm; How Survivors Cope; Apocalypse Now!; Political Futures: Mark Sanford, Cory Booker to Run for Congress; A Year In Photos

Aired December 21, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. Our team this morning, Ron Brownstein is with us. He is the editorial director for "National Journal." Charles Blow is back. He is the op- ed columnist for the "New York Times" and Will Cain. It's nice to have you all. You guys look like the Bobsy twins today.

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Same shirt. Yes, yes.

O'BRIEN: I knew they would say, Charles, what are you wearing?

Let's talk about bad weather, shall we? Much of the country is dealing with this nasty weather. Of course, terrible timing at the height of holiday travel. Later today, New England is expected to get slammed by the same system that's been making a nightmare, really in the Midwest right now.

It's Ohio that's feeling some of the worst effects. Victor Blackwell is there in Cleveland this morning for us. How is it looking, Victor?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the snow, those big fat snowflakes we saw about 30 minutes ago when we spoke, those have been replaced by just the fine snow we're seeing, still horizontal though because the gusts are coming at a quicker pace now.

The big concern is for travel, of course, as we said. The airport, we checked in with Cleveland Hopkins International here in Cleveland. No delays, no cancellations this morning.

The Chicago's O'Hare though, that's where we're going to see about 220,000 people pass through today as they head home or to meet family for the Christmas break. Yesterday, about 350 flights were delayed coming into or going out of that airport.

We're going to get an update from them at about 8:30 Eastern on what's happening there. The roads as well, we know here in Cleveland, we just got an update from Ohio DOT that several of the streets in inner states in and around Cleveland are now below freezing, but just below it.

About 31 degrees is the surface temperature. They've got salt trucks. They've got plows and drivers. If there is accumulation and of course, that is expected here in Cuyahoga County. There is a winter storm warning for this part of north eastern Ohio and we are going to see if it gets as bad as it has been in the other Midwestern states, where there have been some fatal accidents over there.

O'BRIEN: Terrible in some of those places. All right, Victor Blackwell for us this morning. Thank you, Victor. We appreciate it. John Berman has got an update on some of the other stories making news today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Thanks so much, Soledad. Overseas, the Assad regime in Syria firing more scud missiles in the past few days. That's what NATO secretary-general said this morning. He believes it's a sign the regime is desperate and about to collapse.

And it's more proof he says that Turkey needs protection. Turkey has started receiving patriot defense missiles from NATO to shoot down anything Syria might launch over the border.

Top State Department officials say they are already working to beef up security at U.S. embassies around the world. They promised those changes at a Senate hearing yesterday. This is on the attack in Benghazi, Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BURNS, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: We've learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better. We owe it to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi.

We owe it to the security professionals who acted with such extraordinary heroism, that awful night to try to protect them, and we owe it to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: An independent report blames the State Department for poor security at the U.S. Consulate, which left four Americans dead.

A federal judge sentencing Peter Madoff to 10 years for his role in helping his brother, Bernie, cover up the most notorious Ponzi scheme in history. The judge said that even as the existence of the Ponzi scheme became obvious, Peter Madoff helped his brother prepare more than $300 million worth of checks for family members and took out $200 grand in cash himself.

So Instagram apparently heard the outcry from users loud and clear. It has dropped its new advertising plan that basically allowed companies to Instagram to use members' images in ads without compensating them.

Members, they were just outraged that their photos could be used in ads without their permission or their knowledge. A lot of people were using the hashtag that said #sellthisInstagram. If you know what I mean, people were not happy at all.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that really seemed to be very unwise and took a little while to turn that around. What do they say 30 days?

BERMAN: They were going to wait 30 days. It took like 30 minutes finally.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. All right, thanks, John. Thousands of churches around the country today are going to ring their bells this morning at 9:30 a.m., 26 times that's in honor of the students and the teachers who were killed exactly a week ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The next guest says remembrances like this help a lot. Peter Read's daughter Mary who is in that picture with her siblings right there. She was killed five years ago during the Virginia Tech massacre. And Peter Read joins thus morning.

It's nice to have you with us, sir. We appreciate your time. Many of the survivors of other tragedies have told me that when something else horrible happens, it brings them right back to the day that they experience their own painful loss, and so moments like this are just in credibly painful for you.

I'm curious to know your advice for those with experience, with what you've experienced. What do you tell people in Newtown? What have you learn from your terrible last few years that could help them?

PETER READ, FATHER OF VIRGINIA TECH VICTIM MARY READ: Good morning, Soledad. I'm not sure if I have any special wisdom, but what you said is exactly right. And, unfortunately, now, those families in Newtown are going to join this club that nobody wants to be a member of where you do experience these things, when another tragedy happens.

But for us, in the early days, in the weeks and months, getting by meant not trying to take too big of a chunk at a time, had to focus on the next hour, the next day, the next event and really relied on the love and support of family and friends and your community to get you through.

And I think looking back on it, the thing I would take away from that is let those people help you that are trying to help you because you really need it more than you know at the time.

O'BRIEN: They are going to ring the bells as I said at 9:30 this morning. I'm curious if this is helpful. Are they more painful for you or they did similar things in the aftermath of Virginia Tech? Or do you think that these things really do help, not just the people who have lost the most, but everybody in the community, trying to heal too?

READ: I think overall they are helpful. Of course, you know, they are painful, but at the same time, they draw together the families and the people who have experienced the loss with the community and with a nation, with the world that really wants to support them.

And so even if it brings you in our case, my case, certainly brings you a real pang when it happens, the balloon release or the bell ringing or whatever the event is, at the same time it's helpful because it draws you together with others who want to love and support you and that will be the experience that a lot of the families there in Newtown as well.

O'BRIEN: What -- we showed a picture earlier of your daughter with her siblings and a lot of the kids who died in this massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, also had siblings is there any advice for them? What worked with your kids to help them get through? What was horrific pain?

READ: Well, I will say that it goes on and with the re-experiencing, even now with my own children, you know, they are concerned about what happened in Newtown, thinking about it, worrying about it, and so that's something that will go on for a while.

But the very simple acts of being present for your kids, holding them close, making sure you love them and are there for them, those are some of the most important things you can do.

The hard thing is when as a parent, you are grieving, at the same time you are trying to help your kids through their own grief, and a different level than you are. Finding the right things to say and to listen to what your kids are take saving so you understand what they need.

And so a lot of it is just holding your kids close, making sure they know love them, making sure they are there for them, listening to what they are saying and addressing their concerns at their level. I think that's true for everybody, not just kids. You have to meet people where they are and not where you might want them to be.

O'BRIEN: There have been editorials that have talked about now is the time. This is the moment. Now this has been so awful. It's time to make real change when it comes to gun laws and in some cases when it comes to looking more closely at mental illness.

I was reading back at some of the things people wrote in the wake of Virginia Tech. It was very similar and we know they weren't big changes in the wake of that crime that took your daughter's life. What changes do you think should have and what would like to see this time around?

READ: Well, I would like to see what many of us have been asking for, for a long time and people who -- who lost their loved ones to gun violence before me, the things that the president talked about. The things we've heard Mayor Bloomberg talk about.

The majority of gun owners and even NRA owners support, like improving background checks, like dealing with the high-capacity magazines. It is important to address mental health issues. I'm a huge supporter of that and it has to be dealt with. I support campus safety issues.

We have a website, 32nsi.org, for the Virginia Tech Family Foundation that's addressing campus safety issues, but the fact is as a country, we don't have more mental illness per capita. We don't have more depression. We don't have more of those things in other countries have.

What we have more of is easily available firearms with high capacities to do tremendous amount of damage in a short period of time and those don't belong in the hands of people like the perpetrators of these tragedies.

So while it's certainly too soon for the Newtown families to even think about this. We need to address their needs where they are, even on Tuesday, there were a couple of Newtown individuals that -- that came down to D.C.

And they sat with those of us who survived other tragedies and they are ready to work with us to address those issues. And we want to work with anybody else that will work with us on them.

O'BRIEN: Peter Read is the father of a Virginia Tech victim, Mary Karen Read. It's nice to talk to you, sir, this morning. We appreciate your time and insight on this.

READ: Thank you for having me, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet. We want to remind everybody ahead this morning, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, 26 bells will ring in honor of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut. We obviously will be taking that live when it happens.

Also ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk a little about politics. Cory Booker says he is going not to challenge Governor Chris Christie. We'll talk more about that straight ahead. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, welcome back, everyone. Apocalypse now, that's right. Today is the day the world is supposed to end according to some people's interpretations or misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar. Even though many at NASA and other experts have debunked this myth --

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What time is it?

BERMAN: It's already happened in some parts of the world. Some parts of the world are already no longer here.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: For example, Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: Yes. "The New York Post" is reporting many people are stocking up on goods for emergencies. Some people looking for one final fling at parties, social media apparently.

I swear this story is completely unrelated. He resigned as South Carolina's governor after admitting he ran off to Argentina to be with his mistress. Now Mark Sanford is launching a political comeback.

CNN is learning that Sanford is planning to run for the congressional seat he held almost a decade ago. That seat is being vacated by Congressman Tim Scott who was appointed to the Senate early this week by Governor Nikki Haley.

Other political news, Newark, New Jersey's Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat has revealed his plans maybe for his political future. There had been speculation he would challenge Republican Governor Chris Christie when Christie runs for re-election next year. But that is no longer in the cards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I will explore the possibility of running for the United States Senate in 2014.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So Booker hopes to replace Senator Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat whose term ends in 2014. Lautenberg is 89 years old, but here's the problem here. Lautenberg has not said he's retiring yet.

O'BRIEN: He looks good like he does not look like he needs to retire immediately.

BROWNSTEIN: The Democratic Party now gets over 40 percent of its votes. President Obama, for example, for minority voters has a grand total of how many African-American Democratic senators? That would be zero. The party needs to be moving in this direction and finding ways to elevate.

BERMAN: Senator Harry Reid has already come out and say he supports incumbents and that means Lautenberg.

CAIN: I will do Cory a favor. Saw him the other night, what are you going to do? And I said every conservative's favorite liberal. Could you please say that? He is a great guy.

O'BRIEN: Do I have time to ask about the fiscal cliff? I want to pick your brain for a second. What's next?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, John Boehner accomplished something that was almost impossible. He impaled himself on an exercise that had no point. Even if he passed this Plan B, it was not going anywhere, and to me --

O'BRIEN: What does that mean for him and what does that mean for the fiscal cliff?

BROWNSTEIN: There are really only two options. Option one is Boehner has to violate the Hastert rule, which says that you would not bring to the floor a bill that does not have support from a majority of the majority.

There is no place where these Venn diagrams overlap. There is no bill that President Obama could sign, I believe, that a majority of House Republicans could support. So either he is willing to break that and do a deal primarily with Democratic votes along the lines of a deal that President Obama offered him or we're going over the cliff and then Republicans come back and can vote to cut taxes on some percentage of people.

O'BRIEN: We're going to keep talking about this all morning because, of course, what happened last night, big story today.

Coming up next, we're going to show some really incredible images like floodwaters during Sandy, the images that tell a story the way only a photo can. Let's take a look back at the year in pictures, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: The 2012 has been a year of many iconic moments both on the national front and the international front from the soaring human spectacle of the Olympic Games to the lowest moments of humanity's grieving.

Here to walk us through some of those amazing images and take a look back at the year is the co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, Jonathan Klein. It's nice to have you back.

JONATHAN KLEIN, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, GETTY IMAGES: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk first about Sandy Hook and Newtown, Connecticut, because I think often some of the most amazing pictures have not been the videotape that we've shown, but sometimes the stills that can capture grief in a way that a moving picture cannot. The first picture that you have here is a vigil in Sandy Hook.

KLEIN: The stills are just extremely powerful. I think they stop you in your tracks and I also think when you have events of such magnitude with the amount of coverage that there's been, and frankly, the 7 by 24 coverage. You get a still photo and it sometimes in the photo we've chosen there's a stillness within the photo.

And you kind of step back and you stop all of the thinking and all the debates and all the politics and you focus on a couple of individuals in the image and it brings it home very powerfully.

I remember with 9/11, people asked me what was my favorite 9/11 image and at the end of the day the one that I chose was of a firefighter at a funeral close up, and strong man, just a tear down his face and that's all it need.

You don't need the explosions, you don't need the guns and you can get that message across and yes, it's very difficult story to cover as you know better than most.

O'BRIEN: From Sandy Hook Elementary School to Sandy itself, the big storm, the devastation captured in a photo, same thing, it makes you gasp and remember what it's about. This is stunning.

KLEIN: That's an extraordinary photo. The story behind the first photo, which was on the cover of "New York" magazine a Dutch photographer here he got hold of a helicopter and he managed to take that shot, which was extremely difficult shot to take as you can imagine.

And I think it sort of for us in New York, it really summed up the two cities, as I say no po, and so po, south of power. Some of the other images to show the extent of the devastation both on the coast, of course, as well as in the city and the fact is, it's a long time afterwards and I didn't think people across the country understand quite how devastating Sandy has been and is continuing to be.

O'BRIEN: It is interesting because so much of New York and even the surrounding states have recovered so fast. People focused on getting the power back. For a lot of people it's about rebuilding your house. The devastation as bad as we saw Katrina for some individuals is terrible.

KLEIN: I think so and given Katrina was awful, but the massive population, the number of people impacted, and it takes a lot to bring New York to its knees and it was for that week, it was a very strange place.

O'BRIEN: I like this picture of celebration in Egypt and I think photos really capture celebration better than videotape can ever do it.

KLEIN: Well, I think what you see over here is, makes me think back to the Arab spring when it started and the all hopes then and when you have a democratic election.

You don't always get the results you want in a democracy, but you go with that and even as we speak they're now protesting against Morsy, but that picture really, there were a number of images of the celebration, which I thought were powerful and showed that sort of pent up demand for that vote.

O'BRIEN: Is that what you look for in a photo, it's not just beautifully positioned, if you will or framed picture, but it says more because, of course, you see that picture of celebrations around Morsy. We now know how people feel about Morsi and kind of invest that picture with even more sort of emotion I think.

KLEIN: Yes, I think that's right. People always say what is an iconic photo and an iconic photo is something that absolutely captures the moment and when we think back to major events during our lives, either events of a human scale with family, close human scale or those big historic events.

It tends to be a picture in our minds and there's something about that photo, which makes it iconic. You can break it down technically, you can say it's the composition, but it's what it makes you feel.

O'BRIEN: This picture of Usain Bolt winning his second consecutive gold medal in London and I'm sure in the London Olympics you had so many photos of the thrill of victory you could have chosen. Why this one? KLEIN: I think because there were a lot of stories in this these Olympic games, but Bolt was the big story again, and it's very seldom that you'll have two Olympic games where the same person is the big story twice.

And the fact that he'd been written off and that personality that he has, that fooling around before the start of the race and chatting to the officials, and I think that he also plays for the cameras.

You want sports folks who are, who realize what they're doing is entertainment and they're camera friendly and he's particularly camera friendly.

O'BRIEN: Jonathan Klein, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Getty Images, nice to have you. We love it when you come by with your beautiful photos. It's a deal, appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on Starting Point, Republicans Plan B for the fiscal cliff is now DOA, dead on arrival so what happens next?

Plus how the lack of a deal is already affecting your money and she's the first American Miss Universe in 15 years, Rhode Island's Olivia Culpo joins us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)