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Fiscal Cliff: Just 10 Days Left; Midwest Blizzard Heads East; Gun Control Talk Fuels Surge in Sales; Top Sports Stories of 2012; Olympian's Secret Life as an Escort; New Calls for Gun Control

Aired December 22, 2012 - 07:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. It's 7:00 on the East Coast, 4:00 a.m. out West. Thanks for starting your day with us. Victor Blackwell is on assignment.

We start with the big countdown. Just 10 days left for the White House and Congress to reach an agreement on the fiscal cliff where millions of Americans will be paying the price in their paychecks. But Congress is now on holiday recess. And President Obama is in Hawaii.

Let's go straight to CNN's Emily Schmidt. She's in Washington.

Emily, good morning.

So before he left the capital, the president laid out what you could say as this three-point proposal to lawmakers. What exactly is he suggesting?

EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Randi, that's right. Before he went to Hawaii, he left behind this little gift for lawmakers to ponder here in Washington, although many of them have also left Washington for the recess.

Here are the three main points that he's saying:

He wants to make sure there's a law passed that ensures 98 percent of Americans know their taxes are not going to go up in just under two weeks. He also wants to make sure that 2 million Americans who would otherwise lose their unemployment benefits if we went over the fiscal cliff would be able to keep those benefits. And, finally, he says, look, we can take a look at the longer term proposals, the larger reform at a later point. Just lay the ground work at this point.

We also know before the president left, he talked by phone with House Speaker John Boehner. He met in person with Harry Reid, although what the private happened, we don't know. But publicly, things sound a lot like they have for the past few weeks.

Take a listen.


OBAMA: Every member of Congress believes that, every Democrat, every Republican. So there is absolutely no reason, none, not to protect these Americans from a tax hike. At the very least, let's agree right now on what we already agree on. Let's get that done.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What the president has offered so far simply won't do anything to solve our spending problem and begin to address our nation's crippling debt. Instead, he wants more spending and more tax hikes that will hurt our economy.


SCHMIDT: Bottom line, right now we're hearing a lot less talk about some sort of a grand bargain. And instead, maybe some stopgap measures just to try to give some certainty to Americans before that end of the year deadline -- Randi.

KAYE: And, Emily, is it just the taxes that's holding out the agreement or something more at this point?

SCHMIDT: It's hard to know exactly. It seems like the biggest sticking point that we are hearing discussed publicly remains those taxes. Should it be $250,000 that Americans make before their tax, $400,000, $1 million? That number has been shifted back and forth a little bit over the past week. What we've seen still hasn't given us any sure answers -- Randi.

KAYE: So, what's the hope here at this point? I mean, when might they come back to Washington? And is there still a chance of a deal even though time is running short?

SCHMIDT: Yes, if you try to go to a door to door in Washington right now to talk to lawmakers, you'd be walking a long time before anybody answered the doors. Everyone has gone home for the Christmas break, but everyone has also said that they expect to be back sometime next week. President Obama was saying he would work with lawmakers next week some time after Christmas. Chance the House and Senate could be back in around the 27th. But that gives them four days at best to beat the deadline as is outline by law right now.

So it's going to be a lot of work that would have to be done in a little amount of time -- Randi.

KAYE: Yes. Not looking good. Emily Schmidt, thank you so much.

Well, days before Christmas, the airports have been packed while some highways are near empty. All signs of the severe weather in the Midwest that is now heading east.

Just listen to that wind.

The system that caused this blizzard in Iowa and Wisconsin traveled through Ohio and is now hitting Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Plus, there is another blizzard in the forecast.

For more on that, let's check in Alexandra Steele. She's in our severe weather center this morning.

Alexandra, good morning.

So the coasts are getting the bad weather right now, right?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's it, the Northeast and the West Coast. So -- and what we're really seeing here in the Northeast isn't really a part of that massive system that crossed the country, brought those blizzard warnings and a foot to two feet of snow. What we really have here in the Northeast, very blustery conditions and believe it or not, it's those lake effect snow bands.

So, those lake effect-prone areas. So, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, Cleveland, down to Erie, getting another four to eight inches of snow. But as an aggregate in the whole in the Northeast, it's very, very windy, and blustery and much colder than it's been.

So even places like New York City seeing a few snow showers, potentially. No accumulation. But just kind of giving you a nice atmosphere, but it's very windy.

Here's a look at the current gusts in the last hour or so. Right now in Washington, 24-mile-per-hour gusts, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York City, gusting to about 39, 40 miles per hour also pretty recently. So, snowfall totals during the next really overnight tonight. Here's what we're going to see, again, this I-90 corridor.

So, if you're driving I-90 to travel, that's where the toughest conditions will be, down toward the spine of the Appalachians. So, good skiing from holiday valley and western New York down to snowshoe in West Virginia.

But here's a look where we're seeing the wettest weather -- San Francisco, really, Randi, that's going to have the toughest travel, the biggest airports being impacted today and tomorrow, all the way up to Seattle.

KAYE: All right. Thank you very much, Alexandra, for the update.


KAYE: We'll check back with you.

And now to another story that many are following closely. With polls showing that more Americans now support stricter gun laws, the question of gun control may not be if, but when. And that's prompting many Americans to go gun shopping right now.

Here's CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost a thousand miles away from Newtown, Connecticut, gun owners rush to buy more guns.

(on camera): Why are you in here today?

KEITH FISHER, GUN OWNER: I was looking for a gun that I had wanted for a long time and just wanted to get it before possible changes. MATTINGLY (voice-over): At this gun shop and firing range north of Atlanta, already brisk holiday sales have suddenly bumped up even more. Customers fearing gun restrictions from Congress are looking to buy now.

RUDY ORLANDO, GUN OWNER: Me and my brother collect weapons and we have plenty of handguns and shotguns and only one assault rifle. With all this, all the new, you know, talk of new legislation going on to assault rifles, I really -- you know, I definitely want to get a few more before, you know, something may happen.

What's the largest clip that you can put in there?

MATTINGLY: Gun collector Rudy Orlando is specifically looking to buy an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle similar to the one used in Connecticut. And he's not alone. Demand for the weapon here is driving a $1,000 price tag.

ORLANDO: All the prices are really high. I mean, they are really high on those guns right now, you know? And they're not going to budge on the prices because they're going to be sold.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Are you going to buy anyway?

ORLANDO: I probably will.

MATTINGLY: A recent spike in sales reported in stores across the country add emphasis to what is already a record sales year last year in the U.S. Last year, the FBI conducted a record 16,450,000 background checks. This year, the total so far is over 16,800,000. And that doesn't include the month of December.

(voice-over): Future legislation could affect availability of certain semiautomatic weapons, features on the guns, and the magazines that hold large number of rounds. Without specifics, store president Tom Deets says any gun owner could feel.

TOM DEETS, PRES., SHARPSHOOTERS USA: How it will be implemented? Would the existing rifles that are in the marketplace be legal, or will they go across the board to make everything that people had previously purchased illegal?

MATTINGLY: The uncertainty bothers non-gun owners as well.

Brandon Ward is a first time gun buyer worried about protecting his family.

(on camera): Why now? Why today, so soon after the shootings?

BRANDON WARD, ROSWELL, GEORGIA: Because I'm worried that the government is going to put so much regulations on being able to do this, you know, come future months that it's not going to be an option for me.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): industry analysts say this as a possible peak to the sales growth that began with the election of President Obama four years ago. U.S. gun sales totaled $2.5 billion in 2008. This year, that figure could top $3.5 billion.

David Mattingly, CNN, Roswell, Georgia.


KAYE: And we'll continue to talk about gun control this hour and explain what a group of Newtown residents are doing to prevent more massacres there.

We've got much more ahead this hour. Here's a look at what's coming up.


KAYE (voice-over): From CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Linsanity, the London Olympics and Lance Armstrong's shame. We'll bring you the top 10 most memorable moments in sports.

More guns. That's the NRA's solution for preventing another school massacre. All morning long, we put gun control in focus.

An Olympian with a double life. Why Suzy Favor Hamilton apologized for her second career in Las Vegas.



KAYE: Welcome back. A group of neighbors in Newtown, Connecticut, is coming together after last week's massacre to take on Washington. And that means taking on the NRA. They call themselves Newtown united. Their mission: to reduce gun violence and prevent other communities from ever having to live their nightmare.

This morning, we are putting guns in focus.

Bill Toomey help put together the group called Newtown United. And he's joining me, along with his daughter, Sierra, this morning.

Good morning to both of you.

Bill, to you first. I want to ask how you, your friends, your neighbors and your community is doing this morning.

BILL TOOMEY, NEWTOWN UNITED: Well, we're doing as well as could be expected, Randi. It's been really hard on the community as you might imagine. But, you know, we're trying to work through all the different emotions. But this morning, we're doing OK.

KAYE: Well, I know you're channeling some of those emotions into some good work. And you had a meeting this week. And during your meeting, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Chris Murphy said time wasn't on your side.

Did they explain what they meant by that?

B. TOOMEY: Yes, they did. And we were very fortunate to have the senator and senator-elect join us this week. We had a series of meetings, Randi, actually to try to begin a conversation in the community around what happened and how we can take this terrible tragedy and turn it into something positive. So what we heard from the senators as well as some of our congressional -- the rest of our congressional delegation was that the moment in time is now. That the tide is turning in this country as it relates to gun violence and what we can do about it.

And we want to try to bring the community together as quickly as possible, to try and lend our voice to the national voice so that we can really make something meaningful happen out of this terrible event.

KAYE: And the name of your group is Newtown United. But you say that group isn't just a representation of your community. What do you mean by that?

B. TOOMEY: Well, it started with a group of neighbors and friends who were just, you know, trying to channel their emotions and make sense of what happened here and start to put some ideas together on what we might be able to do to, again, turn this into something positive. And what we've heard, not just from folks in the community, but from folks all over the world is that people were deeply touched by what happened here and they do not want these events to g go -- to have happened in vain. We should really try and do whatever we can to lend our voice to the national debate on this issue around gun violence.

It's not just about gun control. There's a lot of other issues associated with it. And we want to bring people together in the community as well as across the nation to really make a difference and make sure that we do whatever's necessary to protect our children.

KAYE: And some of those voices that you want to bring together and that certainly need to be heard are voices like your daughter right there, the young people who could be victims in these mass shootings.

Sierra, good morning to you.

Your school was on lockdown on Friday during this shooting at Newtown at the elementary there. What conversations are you having with your friends about the issue of gun violence?

SIERRA TOOMEY, NEWTOWN UNITED: We were very confused and upset. And we were just trying to figure out what was going on. And it was kind of upsetting afterwards, after we found out what had happened. And we didn't know how to react.

KAYE: And, Sierra, I'm sure you're aware that --

S. TOOMEY: I'm going to try to -- bring high schoolers into Newtown United and we're going to try to make a difference.

KAYE: I think that's so important. And that's wonderful that you're doing that.

People are debating whether teachers should have a gun in the classroom. Sierra, how do you feel about that?

S. TOOMEY: I think that the teachers should focus on teaching instead of carrying a gun, because if they're trying to focus on keeping us safe at the same time as teaching, then it's kind of hard for them to do both at the same time. But they could do other things like keep the doors locked at times and just try to -- we can come up with other ways.

KAYE: And, Bill, how do you feel about teachers being armed?

B. TOOMEY: I think our teachers have a challenging enough job just being educators and being teachers in our community, and I think the issue of gun violence is a challenging one and I think there are many solutions to the problem. We just need to be able to bring folks together in a way that we can have sensible conversations about these issues and figure out the best course of action moving forward. Teachers are in the classroom to teach.

KAYE: Bill and Sierra Toomey --

B. TOOMEY: We need to support them in that.

KAYE: Thank you both and thank you for sharing your thoughts, and we are certainly thinking about you there in Newtown. Thank you very much.

B. TOOMEY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Randi.

KAYE: And we want to let you know that we did reach out to 43 senators of the incoming 113th congress who have an "A" or "A" plus rating from the NRA, and not one of them agreed to join us for this conversation this morning.

Coming up next hour, we'll continue this discussion with attorney Paul Callan. He'll explain what the Second Amendment really allows and its original intention.

Senator John Kerry is ready for a new challenge. We'll take a along at how his career has led to his next job opportunity.


KAYE: And we want to say good morning to Washington, D.C. Lovely shot of the Capitol there. You see the sun starting to peek through the clouds there in the distance. And, of course, you see the flag there in the front of your screen lowered now for 26 days to remember the victims of the Newtown massacre.

Well, it looks like it'll be the end of an era in Massachusetts politics. Senior Senator John Kerry has his eyes on a new job, secretary of state. And yesterday, President Obama officially made him the nominee for the job.

Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan takes a look at Kerry's legacy in Washington.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you very, Mr. Secretary.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His Senate colleagues have joked about his ambition, what many regarded as the worst-kept secret in Washington. Even in recent Senate hearings, John Kerry already sounded like he was looking ahead to his future job and the anticipated battles over the State Department budget with Congress.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: That must change. And in the next session of the Congress, I hope it will.

BOLDUAN: He wasn't the president's first choice. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice took herself out of the running after Republican backlash.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It was unjustified to give the scenario as presented by Ambassador Rice.

BOLDUAN: Senator Kerry knows himself about being torpedoed by attacks, accused in his 2004 presidential run of lying about his military record in Vietnam.

GEORGE ELIOTT: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.

BOLDUAN: And criticized for his 1971 testimony opposing the Vietnam War.

KERRY: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?

BOLDUAN: Kerry was painted a flip-flopper and out-of-touch, unable to grasp the struggles of regular Americans. But candidate Kerry did put President Obama, then an unknown politician, on the national stage at the Democratic National Convention.

OBAMA: John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes but it should never be the first option.

BOLDUAN: Following the loss, Kerry immersed himself in foreign policy.

KERRY: We stand adjourned.

BOLDUAN: Now, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he's been an unofficial envoy for President Obama, helping ease tension with President Karzai in Afghanistan and helped mend strained relations in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

KERRY: We are strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism.

BOLDUAN: But Kerry is not totally in sync with Obama. He has supported limited military intervention in Syria, something the president has resisted. Over his 30-year career, Kerry has built deep relationships with many foreign leaders.

NICHOLAS BURNS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: There are very few people in our country with greater experience over a longer period of time in foreign policy than Senator Kerry.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Perhaps Kerry's biggest challenge to date is not his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, but rather following in Hillary Clinton's footsteps, who has become one of the most popular officials in the Obama cabinet both here and abroad.

Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.


KAYE: 2012 was a wild year in sports from the Giants winning the Super Bowl to the Giants winning the World Series. What was the top sports story of the year? We'll show you our top 10.


KAYE: Now for an update on mortgages sponsored by Quicken Loans. Rates remain low, but slightly higher than last week's. Here's a look for you.


KAYE: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Thanks for starting your morning with us. Victor Blackwell is on assignment.

Nick Valencia is keeping me company here in studio. And he's got five stories that we're watching this morning -- Nick.


Holiday weather may make it tough for holiday travels as AAA says 93.3 million people are expected to journey more than 50 miles in the coming days. The system that brought a blizzard to Iowa and more than a foot of snow in Wisconsin is now expected to drop inches in western Pennsylvania and Upstate New York today. Plus, there's a blizzard warning for parts of west Virginia and north central Maryland. And heavy rains on the West Coast may also cause travel delays, especially in the San Francisco area.

Just 10 days left for Congress and the White House to make a deal and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. The first family arriving in Hawaii for the Christmas holiday there, you see president getting off the plane. But before he left, President Obama urged Republicans and Democrats alike to get it done.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work toward a package that prevents a tax hike on middle class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days.


VALENCIA: Congress is also in recess until after Christmas.

In his weekly address, House Speaker John Boehner accused the president and Senate Democrats of failing to offer a responsible solution. Boehner's own proposal had to be pulled this week after he failed to get enough support from fellow Republicans.

And the National Rifle Association promised meaningful contributions to avoid another tragedy like the one in Newtown, Connecticut. Friday, the gun rights group unveiled that plan. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre says the U.S. should put armed guards in all schools. The comments came one week after 20 children and seven adults, excluding the gunman, were killed in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

And what was a poorly guarded secret in Washington, President Obama nominated Massachusetts Senator John Kerry nominated to the next secretary of state. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice was believed to be the first choice, but she pulled her name out of the running after several members of Congress attacked her responses to the deadly attacks in Benghazi.

A former U.S. Marine was imprisoned in Mexico for four months has been reunited with his family. Jon Hammer was released yesterday partly thanks to the work from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. Hammer was imprisoned on a questionable charge after police found him with an antique shotgun.

His parents say U.S. officials told him it was OK to cross the border with the gun shown here, but Mexican officials accused him of violating their law.

Those are the headlines. Randi, back to you.

KAYE: Thanks, Nick.

As the year winds down, we wanted to take a look back at some of the top moments from 2012. And right now, sports.

Here's our Vince Cellini.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Today is a new day at Augusta National.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS (voice-over): Augusta National, perhaps the most prestigious gulf club in America and home of the Masters, had excluded women from its membership role since its opening in 1932. But that changed in August with the highly showcased admission of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a South Carolina businesswoman.

PEYTON MANNING, NFL QUARTERBACK: I haven't thought yet about where I'll play, but I have thought a lot about where I've been.

CELLINI: When quarterback Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts decided to part ways after 14 seasons, the coverage of where Manning would land was intense. After Broncos fans learned he would play in Denver, they must have felt like they won the lottery, which made the trade of Tim Tebow to the New York Jets easier to accept.

The emergence of golf's newest stars took center stage in 2012. Bubba Watson introduced himself by winning the Masters. But it was a humble misdemeanor and viral videos that quickly endeared him to millions.

Meanwhile, a 23-year-old from northern Ireland Rory McIlroy ended the year as the world's top rank player, let the comparisons to Tiger Woods begin.

Ever since he appeared on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" as a 17- year-old, it wasn't a question of if, but when LeBron James would achieve greatness. That came this year when he soared to his first championship with the Miami Heat, voted the NBA's MVP and won Olympic gold with Team USA.

2012 also had its share of controversy. Starting with the NFL's battle over money with its referees. The league tried to use replacements in college and high school, but after a blown game deciding call on national TV, the criticism became untenable, and the two sides came to an agreement two days later.

The downfall of Lance Armstrong made headlines across the world, a hero to millions after surviving cancer and winning cycling's most prestigious event. That script changed when the U.S. anti-doping agency released a report that accused him of leading the biggest team doping scheme in the history of sports. Armstrong is stripped of Tour de France and resigned from his cancer foundation.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Two words: Jeremy Lin.




REPORTER: Can you believe this is happening to you?


CELLINI: At the start of the Year, Jeremy Lin was a Harvard grad trying to make it in the NBA. But over the course of 10 days in February, the Asian-American became a global sensation as he led the New York Knicks on a seven-game win streak and singlehandedly reinvigorated a franchise that had fallen on tough times.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: We're four hours away from the big opening ceremony.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL: You can really feel the buzz in London.

CELLINI: For two weeks this summer, the London Olympics took center stage with barrier breaking performances. Michael Phelps who became the most decorated Olympian of all time. American Gabby Douglas, the first black woman to win the gymnastics individual all around title. South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. And the female athletes from Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar who were allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time.

The New Orleans Saints made news for all the wrong reasons, after they were found guilty by the NFL of instituting a bounty program that allegedly rewarded players with cash payments for injuring opponents. Head coach Sean Peyton was suspended for the season. And although the suspensions against four current and former players were eventually vacated, the damage to the season was already done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jerry Sandusky is charged with molesting eight boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were the authorities?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was not a case about football.

CELLINI: But the biggest story of the year occurred at Penn State, which was consumed in a sex scandal. The year started with the death of coaching icon Joe Paterno. Five months later, former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of child sex abuse and sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. While the NCAA hit the football program with unprecedented penalties.

Vince Cellini, CNN, Atlanta.


KAYE: Psy's "Gangnam Style" has made Internet history again. We'll tell you about this unprecedented milestone.

Plus, an Olympic athlete confesses she was once a high-end Vegas escort? We'll talk about what led her to this double life.


KAYE: "Gangnam Style" by the South Korean rapper Psy is now the first video in the history of the Internet to surpass 1 billion views. Yes, 1 billion.

If you haven't seen it yet, well, here is what you've been missing.


KAYE: Doesn't it just make you want to get off that couch if you're sitting on it this morning or maybe up from the breakfast table and just start going "Gangnam Style". Billboard says Psy's video gets about 76 views per second. The second most watched video, Justin Bieber's "Baby."

A three-time U.S. Olympian has admitted she was leading a double life as -- all right, are you ready for it? -- a high-end escort. One of the strangest stories that we have seen all week.

We're talking about power house mid-distance runner Suzy Favor Hamilton. Now, "The Smoking Gun" is reporting that she was charging $600 an hour as a call girl or $6,000 for an entire day.

Now, I want you to keep in mind here, she's married, she has a 7-year- old daughter, and she works at a real estate firm and she's a motivational speaker. Does it get any more bizarre?

Nick Valencia is here to talk a little bit more about this with me.

So, this is so strange. And she has an escort name, actually. She didn't use her professional name.

VALENCIA: No, she went by an alias.

KAYE: Her escort name was Kelly Lundy.

VALENCIA: Yes, she didn't think she was going to get caught, Randi. That's what surprises me the most about it. Apparently, she believed there was this unspoken code between what are called in that field hobbyists and providers. The hobbyists, of course, being the Johns, the prostitutes being the providers. And she thought there was this unwritten code between them they wouldn't tell on her.

Lo and behold, one of her customers went to 'The Smoking Gun" reportedly and spilled the beans.

KAYE: Yes, it's so strange. I guess she started escorting last December for a Vegas escort service and she also had these dates in L.A. and Chicago and Houston. But she is saying it was a huge mistake, right?

VALENCIA: She is saying it was a huge mistake and she took to Twitter to apologize to some of her fans. I believe we have a statement there. She's saying, "I'm not a victim here and I knew what I was doing. I was drawn to escorting in large part because it provided many coping mechanisms for me when I was going through a very challenging time with my marriage and my life. The reasons for doing this made sense to me at the time and were very much related to depression."

Apparently, in her life, there was a dark side -- a lot of happy things, but dark side, as well. She said after the birth of her first child, she went through post-partum depression. And also, she told a reporter from "The Smoking Gun" that back in 1999, her brother committed suicide, and this is what she turned to sort of cope with what was going on her life.

KAYE: Maybe some attention she was looking for.

VALENCIA: Yes, it could be.

KAYE: But she also admitted falling on purpose in a home stretch of a race apparently in 2000 in Sidney? What's that about?

VALENCIA: Yes, that has to do with sort of her psyche that we're talking about here --

KAYE: Yes.

VALENCIA: -- of this very popular runner, Favor Hamilton. She said she didn't want to disappoint her brother. He had just died. So as the 200 meters of this final stretch is going down, runners sort of started passing her, Randi, and that's when she said she fell on purpose to avoid the embarrassment. But the sort of ironic part of this also is that she works with Disney. She does a marathon running series with Disney.

KAYE: Yes --


VALENCIA: Yes. So, you're seeing all these different cities. You know, this escort company is based in Las Vegas, but she traveled to Chicago, Los Angeles, other cities throughout the United States, coinciding with her trips for Disney.

KAYE: But here's the thing. Why if you're doing this, and you know who you are, you're an Olympian, why would you tell the people that you're serving, your customers who you really are? Because that's how this whole thing came out.

VALENCIA: She said she was conditioned to believe that she was invincible, like many Olympic athletes are. In questions from a reporter, she took questions from "The Smoking Gun" reporter. She named Tiger Woods, saying Tiger Woods never thought that he was going to get caught. I never thought I was going to get caught either. I did get caught in the end.

KAYE: Oh, I just feel sorry for her kids.

VALENCIA: I do. And it seemed as though -- she has a 7-year-old daughter, she has -- for what it looks like a very normal life in Madison, Wisconsin. She's a real estate broker. She's got a very nice home, $600,000 home, married, and her husband knew about this all. He tried to convince her to not go through with it and not be an escort for a year now.

KAYE: But he knew about it.

VALENCIA: But he knew about it.

KAYE: Oh my goodness. Wow, that's a nice note to leave on there.

All right, Nick.

VALENCIA: All right, Randi. Thanks.

KAYE: Pleasure. Thank you. Letters of support pouring into Connecticut as people reach out to offer their prayers. We'll hear from one little girl who has a very special message to send.


KAYE: A shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, is reigniting the debate about gun control. A growing number of Americans say something has to be done and done now.

Let's check in with CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser in Washington for more on this -- Paul.


PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It appears the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, may be making an impact on public opinion in gun control, in ways that other mass shootings over the past couple of years have not.

Here's one reason why -- more people told us they were angry, shocked and fearful following the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings than those who felt the same way in January 2011, after a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that left six people dead and some, including then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, severely injured.

Forty-six percent of people questioned in our CNN/ORC national poll say that government and society can take action to prevent future gun violence. That's up 13 points from the Arizona shootings.

OBAMA: Over these past five days, a discussion has re-emerged as to what we might do to not only deter mass shootings in the future but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day.

STEINHAUSER: That was the president on Wednesday, as he announced a new effort to prevent such shootings.

And our poll indicates minds are changing, 43 percent say the elementary school shootings make them more likely to support gun control laws, a 15-point increase from January 2011. And 52 percent say they now favor major restrictions on guns or making guns illegal, a five-point rise since early August, following the Colorado movie theater incident where 12 people were killed.

The poll also indicates a big bipartisan divide and a gender gap with most Democrats and women in favor of gun restrictions and most Republicans and men opposed -- Randi.


KAYE: Paul Steinhauser, thank you very much.

So, we asked you this morning what you think about the NRA's proposal to put armed guards in schools, already getting a whole lot of response on Twitter. Let's share some of them with you. Ian tweeted, "The solution must be comprehensive. Mental health check on purchasers, building security, armed guards, drills."

And Linda tweets, "Proposal is ludicrous. His suggesting makes our schools the front line. We need gun control."

Thomas tweeted, "I think it's a great idea. The schools here have a uniformed cop at every school with no issues."

Dave says, "It's like dealing with teenage pregnancy by saying, 'they should just say no'."

And Reah (ph) tweeted this, "Laughable. U.K. and others are baffled by NRA insistence guns are good. You've lost your tag 'land of the free'."

And Tammie (ph) tweets, "I thought about this the other day. If you know I'm armed, you are less likely to attack me."

And Willie says, "It's crazy. How does it look to our kids? Guns in school is demoralizing and weak."

Thanks so much for your responses. Keep them coming. You can tweet me @RandiKayeCNN.

A letter to Newtown, or rather thousands of letters. People from across the globe, reaching out to those in Newtown, offering prayers and support.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester has a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a perfect B.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four-year-old Kaelyn takes her time working hard to get each word right.


SYLVESTER: She's writing a letter.

KAELYN CLARK MIDDLETON, 4 YEARS OLD: Dear parents, I know that you are upset --

SYLVESTER: A letter to the parents of the children killed in the Newtown shooting. She and her mother live in Bowie, Maryland. They have never been to Newtown. In fact, they have never been to the state of Connecticut. But they wanted to show the town that they care.

KAREN CLARK-REDDON, MOTHER: We're writing letters just to let them know that our hearts are with them, that they are in our prayers.

MIDDLETON: Because I want to make them cheer up.

CHRISTINE DUGAS, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE, NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT: Right away, we started seeing mail volume coming in. It began with a few hundred, and now it's thousands per day we are receiving.

SYLVESTER: In the middle of all of the sorrow, the sadness, and the heartbreak -- is something else: compassion, letters, cards, and books pouring into Newtown.

DUGAS: I don't know if they feel like strangers. I think they feel very connected to the tragedy here, but they are coming in from as far away as Sicily, England, Australia and every corner of this country. So they may not have personal knowledge of the families here, but they certainly feel their pain.

SYLVESTER: Kaelyn only knows what her mother told her, that a bad guy hurt and killed children, but she offers this message.

MIDDLETON: Dear parents, I know that you are upset but your children are now fine in heaven. Love, Kaelyn.

SYLVESTER: With her letter, she is sending two pictures, her vision of a rainbow.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Bowie, Maryland.


KAYE: So sweet. We'll be right back.


KAYE: Many of you will drive around this weekend, checking out the Christmas lights, getting a glimpse of how flashy your neighbors got this year. But there is one guy in Washington state and he's done something that might make you drive by twice, just to get a better look.

CNN's Jeanne Moos talked to him about it.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maybe if this homeowner had measured better, his Christmas tree wouldn't have burst through the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's crazy, right?

MOOS: What's crazy is how crazy everyone is about this Christmas tree stunt that doesn't really stump anyone for more than a few seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we bought a 14-foot tree and I cut the top, six feet of it off.

MOOS: Then plunked it on to a plywood platform on the roof and artfully arranged shingles around it.

(on camera): It's funny, your house is sort of proof that the price of trees have gone through the roof.


MOOS (voice-over): Seattle architect Patrick Krueger has always been a huge fan of the movie "Christmas Vacation" in which the main character, Clark Griswold, is obsessed with the perfect tree --


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Dad, that thing wouldn't fit in our yard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not going in our yard, Russ. It's going in our living room.

MOOS: That's kind of what Patrick did. His license plate even pays homage to the Griswolds.

(on camera): Actually, the first tree Patrick put up on the roof had a problem your average living room tree doesn't, it blew up.

(voice-over): Plywood platform it's on had to be bolted on. True, this not a new concept. In England and in Lincolnwood, Illinois, there have been grander versions of the same visual joke with the tree cut in three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're saying it's better than this one?

MOOS (on camera): Yours has a Charlie Brown aspect to it.

CHARLIE BROWN: I think it needs me.

MOOS: What Patrick needs and has is a kinky Christmas tree, as well as a nice plump regular one with the star that grazes the ceiling rather than pierces it.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.