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President Barack Obama in Hawaii for Holidays; Discussion on Gun Control

Aired December 23, 2012 - 17:00   ET


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN: It is the top of the hour, welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Miguel Marquez in for Fredricka Whitfield. Here are today's top stories.

The National Rifle Association is standing tough on its opposition of the new gun laws in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre. The NRA CEO went on TV today to defend hiscall for armed guards in every school. But, as CNN's Barbara Starr shows, those who oppose the NRA are not backing down either.


AMY POHLER: Newtown.




JESSICA ALBA: How many more?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Performers and artists now joining with 800 mayors calling for a plan to end gun violence. But Wayne Lapierre, the chief executive officer and public face of the National Rifle Association, made clear on NBC's "Meet the Press" that his organization will oppose legislation adding new restrictions to the sale of weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Look, I know there's a media machine in this country that wants to blame guns every time something happens. I know there's an anti-second amendment industry in this town. I know there's political leads that for 20 years always try to say it is because Americans own guns.

I'm telling you what I think will make people safe. And what every mom and dad will make them better, when they drop their kid off at school in January is if we have a police officer in that school, a good guy.

STARR: As the last of the Newtown massacre victims are laid to rest, the NRA has taken the position that armed security officers in schools are a major part of their solution.

SEN.JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I have found the statements by the NRA over the last couple of days to be really disheartening because the statements seem not to reflect any understanding of the slaughter of children that happened in Newtown, Connecticut.

Here's what bothered me. The NRA spokespeople have been following deal with every possible cause of gun violence except guns.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara Starr joins us live from Washington.

Barbara, there has been so much outrage to go around much of it directed at the NRA whether it is hard-core opponents saying?

STARR: What they are doing, Miguel, is making the point none of this is really new. School districts across the country have grappled for years with the question of security on school grounds. There have been -- this debate has been going on for some time. But these advocates of more gun laws, the opposite of the NRA, also offer this point. They remind everyone, there was an armed security officer at Columbine high school the day of that 1999 massacre and that person could not stop that event. What they say is controlling gun violence now requires a package of solutions, mental health solutions for those who are mentally ill, gun laws and potentially more for schools a package of solutions beyond the schoolhouse door - Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Yes. And always a tough question in Washington but what can only be described by a rant on Friday by Wayne Lapierre. What is your sense of it? Did the tone of it, the fact he blamed anybody but didn't see any role for the NRA to really play in this, how did that play, you think, in Washington?

STARR: Well, the media machine that he referenced, I think you can well imagine, a good deal of the press corps found themselves perhaps scratching their head about that one. Some people, of course, do support the NRA and Mr. Lapierre.

I think the real question, as you say, is one now of political muscle. Will those who want to see more gun laws enacted have the political muscle now to get the votes for some new legislation, either on banning weapon sales or banning the high-powered magazines or will the NRA be able, even after all of this and the growing sentiment by all accounts across the country, will they still have the political muscle that they have had for so many years to push back against any new legislation?

MARQUEZ: Very interesting.

Thank you very much, Barbara Starr in Washington.

The Navy is investigating the death of a senior member of one of its SEAL teams in Afghanistan. CNN has learned commander Joe Price may have committed suicide. Price commanded SEAL team four based in Virginia beach. It conducted counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. His family has been notified. The Navy says there is nothing to suggest that Price was involved in any military-related investigations or controversies.

In India, there are growing demonstrations after a 23-year-old woman was gang raped on a bus. The protesters are growing angrier over the number of rapes in the capital and the inadequate police response. Authorities have tried to ban protests in New Delhi but that ban has calmed nothing. Public outrage over the violent rape last Sunday has only grown. So far, six suspects have been arrested and now some lawmakers are wanting rape to be treated as a capital crime.

Hawaii has never known a more represented son than Daniel Inouye. Has represented Hawaii in Congress and seat became a state's last five decades as senator. Inouye won the medal of honor for heroism in World War II wiping out a machine gun nest that pinned him and his men, even though he had been shot and lost his right arm. He volunteered served despite the fact that many Japanese-Americans were kept in internment camps. The first family attended today's funeral and so did his long-time friend, senator Harry Reid.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: To everything, there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die. You see, this was Daniel Inouye's time. He led a full and productive life. He was 88-years-old and he lived each of those 88 years to its fullest.


MARQUEZ: Inouye's accomplishments are legendary. At his death, he was the Senate's longest serving member, second only to Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Back here in the U.S., the president is spending the Christmas holiday with his family in Hawaii.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is there.

Brianna, there is no official word when he is coming back to the mainland but as that fiscal cliff deadline gets closer what do you think will happen as this week rolls on?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is no official word the president will return to Washington, but I think that is the expectation. As you know, Miguel, the Senate will convene on December 27th, that's Thursday. And in a perfect world, what the White House would want to see is the Senate take up some sort of measure to avert the tax hikes that will hit people earning $250,000 or less. That's what they would want. That of course, would require some buy-in from Senate Republicans and ideally, as the White House would say that would then pass the house.

Now, that's lot of sort of wishful thinking, you might say, especially considering a lot of the pessimism that we are hearing from Democrats and Republicans about whether the U.S. is going to go over the fiscal cliff. Some folks think that perhaps senator McConnell would not negotiate something with Senate Democrats if he wasn't sure that it was going to pass the House; that it would get by at least some of the Republicans who would need to get by to pass. But I think the White House is hoping that he will kind of buck house Republicans and agree to work something out so that something can pass the Senate. But it's very much up in the air, Miguel, and not certain that we are not going over the fiscal cliff at this point.

MARQUEZ: Yes. It sounds like a very dangerous game, a very complicated game of chicken, the highest levels.

What is your sense of it? You spent time with the president, know Washington well. Do you think someone is going to blink?

KEILAR: You know, if you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have said I didn't think that the country would go over the fiscal cliff. I think it's very much a possibility at this point. I was sort of surprised that, honestly, a deal wasn't worked out. So I think at this point, too, the White House would have told you behind the scenes that ultimately, a deal would be struck, but I don't think the confidence is there.

So, I think some of the pessimism you are seeing genuine. There's still obviously a change to work out some sort of agreement. But even so, there are a lot of things that will kick in with the fiscal cliff that even if you deal with, for instance, the tax like are supposed to kick in, unemployment is set to -- unemployment extensions are set to expire at the end of the year, what's called the dock fix, which sort of makes sure that doctors are paid what they should for folks who are on government health care that is set is to expire. There's also spending cuts that you are set is to kick in. There are a lot of things that will happen because of the fiscal cliff. It is very complicated. And right now, a solution is unclear.

MARQUEZ: You are making my head hurt, Brianna. No offense whatsoever.

KEILAR: Sorry.

MARQUEZ: Have a daiquiri out there looks absolutely gorgeous. Try to have some fun. Aloha. Thanks very much.

KEILAR: Thanks, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: If lawmakers fail to reach a deal by the end of the year, how will automatic tax increases affect your bottom line? We are breaking it down.

And is actor Ben Affleck consider a run for the U.S. Senate? We will have his answer to questions put to him today.

And a teenage girl shot by the Taliban for going to school, we will have an update for you on Malala Yousafzai.


MARQUEZ: With just days to go, there is still no deal insight on the fiscal cliff. The president is holding firm on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans say that must come with government spending cuts. In a plan B by Republicans failed to make it to a vote and that has sparked some criticism from within the party.


REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA: Two years ago, speaker Boehner promised to restore that process around which our entire government was designed. And so far, he has failed to fulfill that promise. I fault him for that.


MARQUEZ: Stephen Moore is the senior economics writer for the "Wall Street Journal." He is in Chicago.

Stephen, what do you make of Congressman McClintock's and a lot of congressmen out there that Mr. Boehner has lost control of his own party?

STEPHEN MOORE, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD: Well, he certainly did, Miguel, temporarily last week. Almost everybody expected that plan B, as you described it, to past. And it had to be pulled at the last minute. That was an embarrassment for the speaker. He couldn't line up the votes in his own caucus that mean there is a lot of divisions even among the Republicans about the best way to proceed. And I think, Miguel, this means John Boehner has to come up with plan C now. Because as you just mentioned, we got about a week left and I still believe there's a chance. You know, I would not put the odds too low, that maybe on December 30 or December 31, they get a deal done. This is the way Washington works, folks. I mean, they always - it's like a teenager doing his homework, right? They always do it very last minute. So, I haven't given up hope that there is a deal struck before the end of the year.

MARQUEZ: So, you are talking 11 p.m. on new year's eve, they are going to come up with something?

MOORE: Could be. It could be. And you know, I want to make this point, too, if I may. Look, I don't think it's a disaster if it happens after January 1st. It would mean that all these tax goes up but Republicans and I think the president made the case that any deal that's struck is going to retroactively make sure that the tax cuts take place on January 1st.

So, it would cause a lot of confusion, no question about it and disruptive, but I think in the long term, the difference between making a deal say on December 31st or making in the middle of January that's not such a big deal in my opinion.

MARQUEZ: Do you think given when they make that deal, do you think the tax situation for Americans, see in their paychecks almost immediately?

MOORE: Well, yes, if we don't have that deal in hand before December 31st Americans are going to start to see money withheld from their paycheck, you know, far in excess of what they have in past years. I mean, we are talking, Miguel, for a middle class family that makes between say 45 and $75,000, depending on their financial circumstance about a $2500 a year tax increase. So, that is going to be very significant for people.

The point I'm making, it will be, you know, they will get that money back if they reach a deal because it will all be made retroactive January 1st. This just isn't a very good way to run a first world country, right? I mean, it's amazing that no business, no investors, no worker has any idea in ten days what our tax system is going to look like. I mean, that's big problem in terms of doing planning, if you're an employer or figuring out how you're going to invest. So, it is very disruptive and it is not a very good way of doing business in Washington.

MARQUEZ: Companies have been compensating for this eventuality for quite some time now though. What happens if we do go over that cliff? Will we see a big effect in the overall economy?

MOORE: Well, you know, look, I think that raising taxes on anybody is a really bad idea, given the kind of fragility of this economy. It's still not, you know, firing on all cylinders, far from it. And so, I'm one of these people who believe the best thing would be to extend the tax cuts for everybody six months or a year until they get it resolved. If that doesn't happen, I think there is going to be a, you know, a little bit of a slowdown in the first few weeks of the year in terms of economic activity. And by the way, Miguel, you saw what happened with the stock market on Friday after there was no deal. The stock market dropped by about 150 points. So, there is no question Wall Street wants a deal here.

MARQUEZ: All tight, the eternal optimist, Stephen Moore, thank you very, very much. We will keep the champagne cool.

MOORE: Keep your fingers crossed.

MARQUEZ: All right. Going off the fiscal cliff will have some very real consequences for just about every American taxpayer. We will take a look at that, straight ahead.


MARQUEZ: Well, as we look at the week ahead, we would like to be focusing on the joy that Christmas is supposed to bring. But, for many of us is a season of worry with the fiscal cliff hanging over all of us. If Congress and the White House doesn't reach a deal to reduce the deficit, automatic spending cut goes into effect and taxes practically on everyone will go up come first of the year.

We want to focus on the tax part of the equation and joining us is Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at Land Colt Capital.

Todd, many people will be hit with the alternative minimum tax if no deal is struck. What exactly is that? How will it affect me, you, everybody across the country?

TODD SCHOENBERGER That's right. The AMT, Alternative Minimum Tax, was put in place by congress, it was actually meant for the very wealthy of America, the very wealthy tax filers so that they were not taking full advantage of too many deductions and credits. The problem is there was never indexed for inflation. So each year, Congress those pass an exemption so therefore it protects middle class families. But it's part of the entire fiscal cliff negotiation, nothing has been passed. So we are looking at maybe 30 million Americans, 30 million to 100 Americans that could be deeply impacted by the time springtime rolls around.

MARQUEZ: What about other tax cities in understand there's three other taxes we could get hit with. What are they?

SCHOENBERGER: Well, right. Well, you were talking to Stephen Moore about it. I mean, you clearly -- the federal income tax, you're going to see a -- we are going to revert back to the 2000 tax schedule you so the top tax rate will bounce up to 39.6 percent. Then you look at the dividend tax rate. Right now, it's at 15 percent it can jump as high as 43 percent. Capital gains taxes from 15 percent up to 20 percent. So, you could see that the implications, the negative implications just to Wall Street but also to those individuals that you are living on a fixed income. So this impacts all Americans, not just the wealthy Americans. This goes top and bottom to everybody involved.

MARQUEZ: And what about the payroll tax holiday? If that expires what does that mean for our paychecks come January?

SCHOENBERGER: Well, the very first paycheck, CNN viewers want to know this, the very first paycheck they will receive in 2013 will be reduced by two percent. Now, that may seem like a nominal figure right at the start, but as long as you continue this throughout deep into 2013, you're looking at real numbers here. I mean, somebody that is making $50,000, like Stephen said, they are looking at anywhere between two and $3,000 extra in extra tax. So that payroll tax holiday is critical and that is the immediate impact to Americans and that's just a few weeks away.

MARQUEZ: All right. And there was some talk about payroll employees putting that off until maybe the end of January. You really do think it will hit the very first day of January in your first check into January, you're going to see it?

SCHOENBERGER: Absolutely, Miguel. Look, we are going over the cliff. I love the optimism from people like Stephen, I respect him. But realistically though, you have so much money that still needs to be negotiated. We only have a few days left, everybody is out of town right now. So, realistically, we are going over the cliff and therefore, you have payroll processing firms right away, like ADP that have been told that those payroll checks immediately are going to be hit with that extra two percent. So yes, all Americans are going to see it in their very first paycheck in 2013.

MARQUEZ: Oh, joy. Thank you very, very much for being with us in the days before Christmas. Have a greeted one.

SCHOENBERGER: Happy holidays. MARQUEZ: Happy holidays.

The recession has already been pretty tough on a lot of small business owners now some of them are saying uncertainty about the fiscal cliff is more than they can handle.

Emily Schmidt explains.



EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are people who make overcoming obstacles, even those towering 40 very vertical feet high look easy. These rock climbers are the heart of Lillian Chao- Quinlan's climbing center business.

LILLIAN CHAO-QUINLAN, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I think with climbing, you have to trust your partner and you have to know that they are holding your rope.

SCHMIDT: This takes team work, which is where she is frustrated by all the talk of another cliff looming in Washington.

CHAO-QUINLAN: There's so much uncertainty, not just for me as a business owner but for our members, for our clientele.

SCHMIDT: With negotiations stalled on the way to divert the fiscal cliff, Chao-Quinlan has put plans to expand her business on hold. She is worried because going over the cliff will cost middle class families an estimated $2,000 a year, money people won't have to spend here.

CHAO-QUINLAN: It's' always challenging when your nee a recreational type of environment because that's sometimes the first thing that people consider, you know, when they are evaluating their finances and what am I going to spend my money on?

LINDSAY BUSCHER, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: The fear that I have is that we're going to lose some customers, we are going to lose our shoppers and we have been here for ten years.

SCHMIDT: For clothing store owner, Lindsay Buscher, it has been a rough few years since the recession. Now she says she is terrified, we are on the verge of tumbling back in.

BUSCHER: I think the effects of them not coming up with a plan is going to be devastating and I see a huge, a bigger recession.

SCHMIDT: The prospect of higher taxes next year means Buscher is cutting back now, trimming staff for January and February, only buying clothing she is sure will sell. Her goal, just to keep her business afloat.

BUSCHER: My biggest fear is that my 7-year-old will never really get a chance to see what I've built. SCHMIDT: Back at the climbing center, Lillian Chao-Quinlan says there are lessons that Washington's negotiate negotiates could stand to learn.

CHAO-QUINLAN: Every move is going to dictate the next move that doesn't mean you are locked into that move, doesn't mean you can't try something else.

SCHMIDT: Unlike climbing, she says, fiscal cliff hanging shouldn't be an option because so much is on the line.

Emily Schmidt, CNN, Washington.


MARQUEZ: Thousands of people protesting in the streets, all in the name of women's rights in their country. We will tell you about the violent attack that led to these protests just ahead.


MARQUEZ: The National Rifle Association is standing tough on its opposition to new gun laws as the debate rages on since the Newtown massacre. NRA'S CEO Wayne Lapierre went on the air today to defend his call for armed guards in every school. Mr. Lapierre accused CNN of faking a report about guns. In response to Mr. Lapierre's accusation. We have this statement.

TEXT: CNN didn't fake anything. We need a mistake in a live shot and when alerted to the error, we followed up with a through reports and set the record straight. It happened three years ago.

MARQUEZ: A scene over chaos after the Syrian warplanes bombed a bakery in Hama province. Hundred had been waiting in line for bread when it happened. Opposition groups say hundreds were killed and many more wounded.

Here's what's trending online. Superstar Rihanna honored they are late grandmother this wound weekend in a big way. She donated a whopping $1.75 million to a hospital in Barbados that set to be renamed after her grandmother. The singer says it's her way of giving back to her home country.

How is this for being in the holiday spirit? South Korea lit up a Christmas tree-shaped tower on a border near North Korea? Something North Korea isn't too happy about as tensions flare between the two countries.

Marks and Spencer is praised for starring a 4-year-old boy with down syndrome in the Christmas ad that little boy, his name is Ced White (ph). Some will point out that persons with disabilities are indistinguishable from the rest and say a move like this is long overdue.

The Pakistani teenager the Taliban tried to murder is getting better at a hospital in England but Malala Yousufzai has become a symbol for women.

CNN International anchor, Ralitsa Vassileva joins me now.

Ralitsa, what are the doctors are saying about her progress?

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very good progress. It looks like she will have a full recovery. She doesn't have any permanent or nerve damage but, Miguel, she has a long way to go including skull reconstructive surgery last month.

MARQUEZ: You have seen homework she has done in the last few days is that correct?

VASSILEVA: She has been reading. She's been doing everything possible to keep up with her education, because that's her thing. She wants girls and children around the world to get educated.

MARQUEZ: Yes. It such an absolutely inspiring story, sad story, too. Do we know, have any idea when she is going to get out of the hospital?

VASSILEVA: Not yet. She still has to do that reconstructive surgery in January. So, some serious therapy that has to happen.

MARQUEZ: And I assume they will have surgeries throughout, because oftentimes it takes a series of surgeries before they can fully reconstruct --

VASSILEVA: Yes. Doctors are a bit tight-lipped about what they are doing. They are giving her privacy but do know for sure she still has surgery to go through.

MARQUEZ: Yes. It's amazing you. The whole world is watching. The other story that we want to talk about is India. There was this gang rape some time ago what can you tell butts incident that sparked all of this?

VASSILEVA: A very brutal gang rape on a public bus, Miguel. A woman, a 23-year-old medical student, raped and not just brutally raped but also assaulted in a way and thrown out of the bus in a way that left her hanging on for her life. She's barely recovering. She was very near death. That has sparked outrage. You see the protests there. Authorities had to been protests in New Delhi, this is the capital that seat of government. People still went out in the street because they are sick and tired of the growing number of rapes and assaults against women.

MARQUEZ: And a lack of police response. I mean, New Delhi is renowned for the number of rapes that you happen there just in broad daylight.

VASSILEVA: Absolutely. And sometimes families even pressure their girls not tell authorities. The police sometimes just look the other way. So, people want to -- and you see, there are boys, their men out there who want police to take this more seriously, who want the laws tightened so that there's punishment, they want cases of allegations of rape to be fast tracked, not to languish there in the courts.

MARQUEZ: And it's worth underscoring this is not just women out there in Delhi. It's men as well. It's widespread.

VASSILEVA: A lot of young people, actually, and a lot of people saying attitudes need to change. People have to take and India society has to respect its women more, its girls more. So it's really struck a nerve. Some say it could be a turning point. So we will see.

MARQUEZ: Yes. Well, let's hope it is.

Ralitsa, thank you very, very much for being with us.

VASSILEVA: Thank you, too.

MARQUEZ: A wedding in a strange country, far from family and friends. We will tell you why this couple is getting married far from home.

And the man sings about a one-pound fish and now he is, himself, a worldwide hit.


MARQUEZ: Well, 2012 may seem like a tough year but amazing things happened this year. Some calling it the best years ever. Josh Levs has a look at that.

What do you got for us, Josh?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what, it is interesting, because lately, it really hasn't felt like it. We have been down on a lot of things. There is an article here though, it is going kind of viral now, from the spectators, next saying this is the best year ever, that might not be what a lot of us feel right now but a lot of amazing things did happen this year was. Let's take a minute to appreciate them. We are going start off with the big feats of 2012. We can't forget about this Mars Rover, Curiosity touching down sending back amazing pictures of Mars, giving us some really incredible shots and new information about a piece of our universe.

Another big feat this year, Felix Baumgartner jumping out from what a lot of people call the edge of space, breaking a bunch of record there is. Both on a list by U.S. news and world report of the big success stories of 2012.

Let me tell you about the serious stuff the spectator is pointing to. We got some graphics for you here. First of all, world poverty, I don't know if y'all missed this year. There was an announcement from the U.N. millennium group that world poverty has been cut in half. They reached that goal. Hunger goal has not yet been met. It is still far from that one.

Death he is from aids and malaria are down around the world. Also, fewer war deaths over the past decade than in any time over the past century, according to the peace research institute in Oslo. And a bit of drop in deaths in lung cancer and breast cancer as well in this country.

So, Miguel, all of these reasons for hope at this time and the year's holidays coming, good think about some of the reasons for hope.

MARQUEZ: Well, there are good ticks, obviously. Bit, do you have some -- I hear you have some new video us for, amazing light display?

LEVS: You are going to love this every year. You know, every year, we get amazed. But take a look at this from our ireport. You got see it. Take a look there.

This is from Chris Morrow, captured video this is one house. One house. In San Diego, deck to the roof with 35,000 Christmas lights. Chris Morrow says visiting the shoes major holiday tradition in San Diego and the electric bill is at least $1,000 for the month of December every year. And since we are on that, let me just tell you about some of the cool spreads we have here that you should check out at We have some really great spreads of the various lights around the world.

And I hope you can see this, check this out. These guys, might be hard to tell at first in Tokyo, they are window washers. They are actually suspended over a road right there. Just one over many shots we have of Santa is doing some really funky things.

And speaking of Christmas cheer, failing events. Idaho viola camp carolers, look what they did an annual tradition where they show up and they play Christmas cheer for everyone going through the airport. Nice to see some of that happiness going on there, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: I would be crashing through there with my suitcase, screaming, running to the plain.

Thank you, Josh Levs.

LEVS: We got something now, right?

MARQUEZ: We do indeed.

LEVS: What do we got?

MARQUEZ: A song about a one-pound fish. Could it be the next "Gangnam style"?

Shows us why it is now a world-wide hit.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) : It's a catchy tune, once you hear it, its' hard to get it out of your head. Eight months ago, Muhammad Shamid Nazir left his home in Pakistan to study business. He got a job at queens market in east London and started singing to entice the ladies to buy his fish.

MUHAMMAD SHAHID NAZIR, SALESMAN: Ladies, all this has been husband, with son, with brothers. So, if you will call the ladies, the men automatically come no problem.

MCLAUGHLIN: One of his customers posted his song to you tube. More than five million hits later Nazir has a record deal with Warner music group, a sister company of CNN, grossing a music video and his song "one pound fish" a contender to tonight UK singles chart at Christmas.

NEIL FOX, MAGIC FM BROADCAST: When you have a record as massive as "gangnam style," you know, someone else has thought what's going to be the next record? Probably doesn't cost an awful lot of money to make the video. That's the great thing with the internet with you tube, you've got this incredible instance distribution around the planet.

NAZIR: I think I'm looking at dream and someone touch me and I will wake up. So please don't touch me. I don't want to wake up. I want to live this dream.

MCLAUGHLIN: Nazir's celebrity perhaps greatest at queens market where he is known as the one-pound fish man. Everyone here seems to know his tune.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One pound fish, very, very good. One pound fish.

CROWD: One pound fish. Come on, ladies. One-pound fish.

MCLAUGHLIN: And the others stall keepers have one pound envy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will be here four years and come down here, listen to my song and arrange it had a bit but good luck to him u.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your song?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pound, would you like a pound?

MCLAUGHLIN: For Nazir, it is not just about the song, it is also about the dance.

NAZIR: Let's start.

MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's start.

NAZIR: Come on, ladies, come on ladies, one-pound fish.

MCLAUGHLIN: He plans to go back to Pakistan to see his family over Christmas before returning to the U.K. His next song?

NAZIR: You are so beautiful.

MCLAUGHLIN: Perhaps, not as catchy, but he sure knows how to serenade the ladies.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN. London.


MARQUEZ: (INAUDIBLE) marshal plan for pop culture. A Syrian couple gets married in a strange country after war separates them from their family.

And it wouldn't be the first time a Hollywood actor goes into politics so we could we soon be saying senator Ben Affleck?


MARQUEZ: Wedding days are meant to be celebrated with family members but for a Syrian American couple it is being spent far from home in Turkey, with strangers.

CNN's Ivan Watson finds out why.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a very important day for Ala Hassan, he and Fanny Ferato are both a little nervous. This Syrian-American couple are in a foreign city, far from their families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm witness, but, I still don't know your name.

WATSON: Today, Ala and Fanny are getting married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We announced you as husband and wife.

WATSON: It's not quite the wedding either of them expected. How do you guys feel?

FANNY FERATO, SYRIAN-AMERICAN: Relieved. We didn't want to have a religious wedding why we didn't do it in Lebanon. In Cyprus, they wouldn't give us Syrian visas.

ALA HASSAN, SYRIAN-AMERICAN: Syria, I don't really want her to go --

FERATO: Too dangerous.

WATSON: Too dangerous to get married in the country where their romance first began six years ago.

FERATO: I went to Syria to teach photography to young Iraqi women and we met at a party.

WATSON: Fanny learned Arabic, moved in with Ala and the young lovers had plans to eventually start a family in Syria. What did the uprising do to your plans?

FERATO: Well, it separated us.

WATSON: Fanny was in the U.S. last year when the protest movement first erupted.

FERATO: Once it started, Ala said don't come back, Fanny, because they would get in trouble for housing an American and just wasn't safe.

WATSON: From outside, fanny watched and worried as a brutal Syrian government crackdown led to a fully fledged insurgency. Ala says he finally no choice but to leave his country and his family when it came time for his mandatory military service.

HASSAN: I don't want to be killed. I don't want to have to kill or shoot.

WATSON: How did you feel when you crossed the Syrian border for the last time two weeks ago?

FERATO: I don't really -- for now, I don't -- I think it's the saddest day of my life.

WATSON: Amid the grief and worry, there is joy. This couple has at last been reunited after war separated them for more than a year.

FERATO: Well, eventually, we'd like to go back to Syria. When we have a family --

HASSAN: Wary going back, yes.

FERATO: Hopefully.

HASSAN: As soon as we can.

FERATO: Yes. As soon as it's safe.

HASSAN: As soon as it's reasonable.

WATSON: Big questions for the future, but for now, let's hope these newlyweds can just enjoy their honeymoon in peace.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.


MARQUEZ: Well, he has already conquered Hollywood. Is Washington next? Is this Oscar winner ready to be a U.S. senator, people are asking him? We have his answer.

As an America's wounded warriors say why they still have reasons to give thanks this Christmas.


MARQUEZ: Well, he is known for his award-winning acting in films but could Ben Affleck be seriously thinking about dumping Hollywood for Washington? He lives in Massachusetts where a U.S. Senate seat could soon open up if John Kerry becomes secretary of state. Here's what he said today.


BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: Well, one never knows. I'm not one to get into conjecture. I do have a great fondness and admiration for the political process in this country. It's a big deal for me to come down here and be on your show they've watched so much, but I'm not going to get into speculation about my political future.


MARQUEZ: President Obama has formally nominated Senator Kerry to replace secretary state Hillary Clinton. He is considered a shoo-in for confirmation. So, it is likely there will be a vacant seat for the taking in Massachusetts soon.

Now, CNN NEWSROOM with Don Lemon coming up in a few minutes.

And Don is here to tell us what's ahead. How are you there, Don?


MARQUEZ: It's a literal handoff.

LEMON: Welcome to the other coast.

MARQUEZ: Nice to be here. Very nice to be here. Thank you.

LEMON: Yes. And listen. I wish we had some fun stuff to talk about, but, unfortunately, we are talking about the school shooting. I'm going to talk to a school safety expert who says tactics like bullet proof vests, backpacks, arming teachers and teaching kids to attack armed intruders, well, they are quote "borderline insane." And Miguel, I had a really intense conversation last night about gun control in this country with columnist David Sirota. He wrote an article pointing out that in many of the recent mass shootings the gunmen has been a white man or a teenager. And I asked him if our conversation would be different if Adam Lanza had been black or Muslim. Listen.


LEMON: Are you saying that we should start profiling white men?

DAVID SIROTA, CONTRIBUTOR, SALON.COM: Well, I think we should ask the question why is America 30 percent white guys and 70 percent of the mass shootings in the last many decades have been at the hands of white guys. I'm not saying we should racially profile white guys, but I do think it's interesting to note that had the shooters, had 70 percent of mass shooters been, let's say, Arabs or African-American men, I think the conversation right now would be a very different conversation where we would be talking -- we would be having a much less nuanced, a much uglier conversation.


LEMON: He brings up very interesting points. We talked about that. It is going crazy on social media. You can check it out @donlemonCNN on twitter and facebook as well.

Miguel, we're going to talk about that and explore what, if anything, can be done about gun laws and possibly gun control. A very heated conversation on that happened. We'll replay some of it.

MARQUEZ: Very tough time this holiday season.

Thank you very much, Don. Good to see you.

LEMON: Merry Christmas to you.

MARQUEZ: We all know Christmas will be here on Tuesday, but there's also big news about the popular musical "Les Mis" on that day. That and more in the week ahead.


MARQUEZ: Firing an employee that is too attractive may not be fair, but in Iowa it's legal. The state's Supreme Court just rule in favor Dentist James Knight said his irresistible attraction to one of his dental assistants justified firing her. The court said Melissa Newton was not fired because of her agenda but because her boss said she threatened his marriage by being attractive. Nelson worked for Knight more than ten years, but at the end of her employment she said that Knight told her that her clothing was too tight and distracting, that he fired her saying she was a perceived threat to his marriage so, she sued. She talked to our Don Lemon about how she feels now that the court ruled against her.


MELISSA NELSON, FRIEND FOR BEING TOO IRRESISTIBLE: I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's right. The last couple of days has just been an emotional roller coaster. I'm trying to stay strong. It's tough. I do hope that if something positive doesn't come out of this for me, then it will for somebody else. I hope that nobody else has to experience or go through and live what I have had to live with.


MARQUEZ: Her attorney says she is appalled by the ruling and the court's failure to understand the nature of gender bias.

Now let's take a look at what's happening in the week ahead.

Tomorrow the morning stock exchange closes early in observation of the Christmas holiday.

On Tuesday, besides the fact that it's Christmas "Les Miz" opens. It is a film version of the incredibly popular musical "Les Miserables." It is considered to be a blockbuster.

Wednesday is the sixth anniversary of the tsunami that hit after a massive earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. More than 200,000 people died.

On Thursday we could get the consumer confidence report. We get a consumer confidence report. It will give us an idea of how people are feeling about the strength of the economy.

And on Friday lots of nervous couples and last minute plans means new same-sex marriage law goes into effect the next day. Same-sex partners will be finally able to get married legally there.

People usually count their blessings at Christmas. CNN's Barbara Stars found soldiers still counting theirs, and they might wonder how they can do it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I push forward and open -- my elbow unlocks and I throw it back, and that's how I maneuver.

STARR (voice-over): Wounded troops in rehab at the holiday time. All Christmas miracles. Meet Travis Mills, one of the troops I visited with asking them to send holiday wishes to their buddies.

STAFF SERGEANT TRAVIS MILLS, U.S. ARMY: Hi, everybody. I'm staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the (INAUDIBLE) division fourth brigade combat team. I just want to wish everybody, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. To our military forces overseas and home, and special shout-tout my guys in first platoon squad. The gun show. Miss you guys. Have a Merry Christmas.

STARR: Eight months ago he stepped on an IED.

MILLS: We thought it was clear, but it wasn't, and it took all four limbs, but it didn't take my life. I am thankful for that.

STARR: It can be a struggle just to walk again.

BO REICHENBACH, U.S. ARMY: I'm back with the U.S. Navy. Just want to give a shout-out to all my friends and family. Have a good holidays, and stay safe.

MILLS: Army specialist Tyler Jeffreys also lost his legs.

SPECIALIST TYLER JEFFRIES, U.S. ARMY: Just want to give a shout to all my friends and brothers back in Afghanistan, say happy holidays, and I wouldn't be here without you guys.

STARR: Tyler is already getting ready for next Christmas.

TYLER: I want to start walking as fast as I can because I'm in that wheelchair for hours upon hours all day, and, like, I just want to be able to get up and get a cup out of the cup barred.

LANCE CORPORAL JOSHUA LANGSTON WHITE, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I'm Langston White. I want to say happy holidays to my family, and I got a bunch of guys from my unit getting their purple hearts today, and I say I'm thinking about you guys today, and I got a special place for you guys in my hearts.

STARR: Joshua says it's a good holiday season because of his buddies.

WHITE: It is. They're there. They're alive and breathing. It's good in my eyes.

SERGEANT ADAM KEYES, U.S. ARMY: I'm Sergeant Adam Keys, combat engineer, 20th engineer brigade, airborne out of Fort Bragg. I just want to give a shout out to the guys of the 27th that are still overseas.

STARR: A triple amputee, there's one thing Adam didn't lose. His airborne wings tattoo.

KEYES: You can take this one off.

STARR: No, no. I didn't even realize.

KEYES: The wings are still there too. Airborne wings. That's good.

STARR: And that's good?

KEYES: Yes, of course.

STARR: So that's actually pretty cool, the airborne wings.

KEYES: Yes, they made it.

MILLS: So like, I mean, as a quadruple amputee laying hooked up to hoses, can I walk now. Fist pump and then lean a little here. Fist pump again. Bam. Jellyfish, jellyfish, jellyfish.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.


MARQUEZ: That will do it for me. Miguel Marquez. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Don Lemon. Have a great holiday.