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Code Pink Protester Disrupts NRA; Milk Could Hit $7 a Gallon, Fire in Rochester Home Kills Two

Aired December 24, 2012 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The protester who disrupted Wayne LaPierre's statement on Friday, his big presser, says her actions came in response to the NRA chief's call for armed guards in every school.


MEDEA BENJAMIN, CODE PINK: NRA has blood on its hands! Shame on the NRA! Ban assault weapons now!


COSTELLO: Code Pink co-director Medea Benjamin unfurled a sign you saw there saying the NRA had blood on its hands. She was led out by security. I talked with Medea last hour about her protest.


COSTELLO: First of all, I was just curious. How did you get in? There were many security sweeps. There were bomb sniffing dogs. The NRA was very careful to keep unwanteds out.

How did you manage to get in?

BENJAMIN: I just slipped in under the radar.

COSTELLO: Do you guys -- I mean, you guys do this a lot. You protest passionately against things in which you don't believe.

So, do you have a plan in place before you go into these types of press conferences?

BENJAMIN: Well, actually, our plan in this case was to sit quietly and listen. I thought, perhaps naively, the NRA sensed there was a mood change in the country and they were going to offer something, like an assault weapons ban. But I was amazed to hear Wayne LaPierre coming out like a bully saying that what we needed was more guns.

So we felt that that was our cue to get up and to protest. And I think from the outpouring of support we've had around the country, people are really happy to see somebody stand up to the bullies in the leadership of the NRA.

COSTELLO: You have that gigantic sign. Where was that? I mean, how did you get that into the room? BENJAMIN: I just tucked that into my bag, Carol. It was no problem.

COSTELLO: So do you think that your actions will have any, you know, concrete action as far as lawmakers go or what the country thinks?

BENJAMIN: Well, I think that the message that they're giving out about armed guards in the schools is something that people are really countering. Why don't we have conflict resolution taught in the schools? Why don't we bring back the school nurses and the guidance counselors who used to be able to detect and help troubled youth? There are so many more rational answers.

And, of course, even the majority of the people in the NRA and the country are saying, let's have a ban on assault weapons and those high capacity clips and stronger background checks.

The country is ready for a rational gun policy, and we have to stop this cabal within the NRA from dictating our policies.

COSTELLO: Some people might say that your action, as well-intentioned as they might be, kind of, hurts the cause because you yourself seem kind of crazy.

BENJAMIN: I don't think so. I think, as I said, we're getting so much support from people.

The leadership of the NRA doesn't even represent the majority of the people within the NRA who want to see an assault weapons ban, who want to see a change in policy after 20 of our children got killed. I think I represent the rational majority that is no longer willing to be silent on these issues.

COSTELLO: Medea Benjamin, thanks a lot for coming in on Christmas Eve. We appreciate it.

BENJAMIN: Thank you so much for having me on. Happy holiday.


COSTELLO: We did reach out to the NRA to join us on this segment, but it declined our invitation.

OK. I drew the short straw and I have to work on Christmas, so I went home over the weekend for a celebration with my family. It was fantastic and at times it got testy because I promise you when you go home this holiday season, you will talk about Newtown and you will talk about guns. And at times the conversation will be passionate.

So, how do you manage that without tearing down the Christmas tree?

CNN contributors L.Z. Granderson and Will Cain are here to discuss.

OK. So my family we didn't tear down the tree, but sometimes I thought we might. So, I wanted to discuss that with both of you because you're from vastly different parts of the country.

So, L.Z., you live in Michigan. How will the conversation go around the dinner table?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, first of all, let me say there are two Michigans, OK? There's eastern Michigan and there's western Michigan. Eastern Michigan is much more urban and the attitudes are more along the lines of ban everything, right? And I grew up in a town in Detroit in which a lot of teens were being killed before they reached their 16th birthday. So, that's the impetus behind banning everything.

The west side of the state is more rural. There's a lot of hunters. There's a lot of people who are very pro-gun, very, very conservative and Republican, in Grand Rapids area.

But I will tell you this -- all 21 of the superintendents in my county since signed a letter sent to our governor, asking him not to approve a law that would have allowed guns in schools amongst other places. So, it's not as extreme as you would think. So all that to say, I think people in Michigan on both sides of the state are very open and willing and wanting some sort of restrictions so we don't see what happened in Newtown, Aurora, Arizona, some of the other mass shootings, Oregon, that we have seen this year happen in 2013.

COSTELLO: OK. So, Will, you're from Texas. You know what everybody thinks about Texas. Ain't going to be arguments at your table because you all agree.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's kind of true. It's a stereotype, but I have to be honest. There'd be a lot of -- that's a good point being made going around the table.

That being said, look, you've got to learn how to have, and many people do, so I'm not trying to press, but have conversations with people who disagree with you. As difficult as it is in the weeks after Newtown, Carol, the way to have a conversation about guns, the way to have an intelligent conversation about most things is try to separate yourself from the emotion, if you -- specially trying to debate a public policy issue. If you're looking for a solution that involves a law, you've got to have a rational conversation.

And to me, that it begins with trying to put the problem in context and the truth is when it comes to crime, violent crime in America, we're at a 40-year low. When it comes to gun violence, we've returned to 1970s level.

And although it's true that six of the last -- the six of the deadliest 12 of the mass shootings has happened since 2007. The "A.P." reported last week that these mass shooting were on the decline. So, when you look for solutions, we have to put it into a broad context, a broad societal context and ask yourself there, will it work and what is the cost imposed upon that context?

COSTELLO: But I think shootings are actually up 20 percent and the reason that there are many -- that gun deaths haven't increased is because we have medical care. But that aside --

CAIN: That's different -- COSTELLO: I disagree with you on one point about the conversation though, because I think that you should have a passionate, emotional conversation and get everything out there on the table, because only then can you really understand the other side.

And in my family in Ohio, it's sort of the same like in Michigan. It's different in Cleveland than it is where my parents live, Minerva, Ohio, completely different views on guns. But I think if you get everything out there and you understand the other side, only then can you have a rational discussion.

CAIN: Well, I've been thinking of this, Carol, and, look, I have to be honest, I do this for a living, right? So if your goal at end of a conversation is actually to come to some level of understanding, as you just said, I have never found that the more emotional the conversation is, the more productive it is towards reaching that understanding. I have found that the more emotional it is, the more people turn off their listening ears, the more they get angry with each other. They don't find understanding and certainly they don't find solutions.

COSTELLO: L.Z., what do you think?

GRANDERSON: I think Will and I have two different approaches when it comes to touchy subjects. He and I -- you know, we do this for a living and we do end up on the opposite sides most times and it's because I don't leave my emotions at the door when I walk in, because I understand though these are numbers, these numbers represent people, and these people have families. They have friends, loved ones.

So when I talk about statistics, I don't do it in an empty vacuum. I do it with understand that it comes with emotions. And when it comes to having an emotional conversation, that doesn't mean you check your facts at the door. What we do, what my partner and I do and my son, especially, if we're engaged in a conversation, we keep our iPhones handy because we fact check each other. And if we're wrong on facts, we actually go back and say, I guess I was wrong or I was right, or -- however, you know, the fallout maybe.

But trying to have a conversation about something as tragic --

CAIN: I'm going to get my iPhone.

GRANDERSON: -- without emotions is not -- I don't think a logical way of having a conversation.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, just some food for thought for everyone.

CAIN: I got my iPhone, Carol. I'm going to check that shooting statistics.

COSTELLO: OK. You do that.


GRANDERSON: There you go. CAIN: Everybody has a fact checker on them.

COSTELLO: That's a good idea actually, L.Z. I like that.

L.Z. Granderson, Will Cain --

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. Hey, my son checks me all the time.

COSTELLO: Good for him.

L.Z., Will, thanks so much.

So, how did they tie the knot? We'll bring you the latest on this Rolling Stones weekend.


COSTELLO: Well, we heard wedding bells for rock star Ronnie Wood over the weekend. "The Sun" reporting the 65-year-old Rolling Stone guitarist married 34-year-old theater producer Sally Humphreys in London.

Joining me now from Los Angeles is Kareen Wynter.

So tell us more.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: I wish we had the depths (ph), but you know what? Marriage even at 65, nothing wrong with that. You know, they keep everything private. We were able to dig a little in terms of getting some details in trying to confirm this, but we'll have to see what else comes out.

But look at that. Beautiful picture of them standing there together. Yes, we're going to be digging more on that story.

But we have news on another rocker for you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, I'm ready.

WYNTER: Eddie Vedder, yes.


WYNTER: Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam. There's so much that we've been seeing from starts helping after the devastation in New York, with the storms there. And so, Vedder, he's one of the underwriters behind this huge concert. He's stepping up to help here.

He performed, you may remember this, the 12/12/12 concert. Well, the show is scheduled, this benefit concert for January 2nd in Asbury Park and features a lesser known collection of bands, including Steve Earle, My Morning Jacket, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

And the organizers here, Carol, they say the proceeds from the On the Beach, a Sandy Relief Concert, is going to go to local Jersey Shore nonprofit organizations like Coastal Habitat for Humanity, and a lot of stars saying, even though there was a huge push after the storms, after this devastation, that there's still so much more to do here with the holidays, people still reeling, people still trying to get back on their feet.

So, good to see --

COSTELLO: Paul McCartney is doing something too right?

WYNTER: Absolutely. He's donating a song to the "Songs After Sandy" album. The track is called "I've Got a Feeling." And although it's been previously released, it does add some star power to the CD. We have some other artists that we're hearing about that are going to be participating. Some local bands from Brooklyn, the first album feature performers like Joan Osbourne, Ben Folds Five, as well as Bob Weir.

McCartney released a statement saying, "In the wake of the devastation, it's good to know so many are getting together to provide relief for those who suffered the most." So, again, another example of stars coming together especially during the holidays, stepping up. There's so many people still affected, still suffering, trying to rebound from that storm -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Kareen Wynter, thanks so much. Watch "Showbiz Tonight", 11:00 Eastern, on HLN.

You've heard about the fiscal cliff. What about the dairy cliff? Yes, there's a dairy cliff. We'll tell you -- 7 bucks for a gallon of milk, crazy, huh? It may happen. That's next.


COSTELLO: Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Time to check the top stories.

"The New York Times" reporting Amazon is cracking down on book reviews by deleting thousands of them from its Web site. Writers may be paying well-known peers to write a great book review in order to boost their sales. Amazon has not officially offered a public explanation.

"Newsweek" has released the cover for its final print edition. It features an archive photo of the former "Newsweek" offices in New York. Mixing the old and new, the cover reads "#lastprintissue." "Newsweek" editor Tina Brown says the magazine could no longer afford to keep producing a print version and will continue in the New Year as a digital-only publication.

Fire an employee because she's too irresistible? Oh, yes, that's what the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in the case of dental hygienist Melissa Nelson. Nelson had worked for dentist James Knight for more than 10 years when he fired in 2010 because he said he found her too attractive, and a potential target to his marriage. Don't know why it took him eight years to figure that out, but, hey, it's America.

This movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is still number one at the box office, earning $36.7 million over the weekend. It's the second straight week "The Hobbit" has outpaced the competition in ticket sales.

Call it the wheel of misfortune, contestant Renee Durette appeared to be on her way to winning several thousands dollars on the game show "Wheel of Fortune". When she had the answer to the puzzle or so she thought. Listen.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd like to solve the puzzle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven swans a-swimmin'.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's not -- yes, can't accept that.


COSTELLO: Durette is a Navy reserve intel specialist from Merritt Island, Florida. Her Southern accent may have caused her thousands of dollars, because you heard it, instead of saying swimming, she swallowed the letter "G" and said swimmin' instead. Cost her 4,000 bucks.

Your taxes might not be the only thing that goes over the New Year if Congress can't get their act together. Milk prices could also skyrocket to 7 bucks a gallon.

I'm still reeling from "Wheel of Fortune", Alison, I can't get over it.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think they should have given it to her. Come on, give me a break.

COSTELLO: Ask her to repeat it. She would have put the right ending on.

KOSIK: But wasn't that implied though? Come on, they should have cut her a break.

COSTELLO: I know. OK, let's talk about milk now.

KOSIK: All right. Seven dollars, that's enough to make your eyes pop out if you're strolling in the dairy aisle looking to pick up a gallon of milk for 7 bucks, but it could be a reality because while our elected officials continue playing chicken with our taxes, they're ignoring other pressing matters as well -- like the agriculture bill.

So, the way this law is the government actually steps in if the price of milk drops by about half from the current national average of $3.65 a gallon. So the government does it to keep dairy farmers in business. But here's the thing with this. This dairy subsidy, it expires on January 1st. So if a new bill is not passed or if the current one is not extended, the formula that's used to calculate what the government pays for dairy products reverts back to a statute that was passed in 1949 which has the government buying milk at a much higher price. So, the result is $7 a gallon for milk -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So is there anything we can do?

KOSIK: There is something you can do. You can choose to not buy it or you can suck it up and just buy the milk.

But, you know, here's the thing. It's not just milk. It's anything that's made with milk. You know, think about the ripple effect with that. I mean, we're talking about cheese and everything else.

And farmers, sure, they're going to reap the rewards with higher profits at first but that wouldn't last long because likely consumers will cut back on dairy. They'll buy imported dairy products or find an alternative like soy milk.

Come on, Carol. It's the reason why it's called the dairy cliff.

COSTELLO: That's true. I've heard goat milk is good but you can't smell it. Goat milk is stinky.

KOSIK: Really?


KOSIK: Never tried it.

COSTELLO: Yes, maybe some day we'll try it together.

Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

Wounded veterans working through Christmas as they recover from their injuries. Their thoughts though are with their friends overseas who couldn't make it home for the holidays.


COSTELLO: We told you earlier about the firefighters responding to a fire and they were shot instead. Well, we have an update. These are live pictures from Webster, New York. That's in upstate New York. Webster is near Rochester.

Apparently, these two firefighters were killed, we don't know as they were fighting a fire. Two others were wounded.

Jenna Lento from WROC has little more information for you.


COSTELLO: All right. We're going to try to cue up that tape. Obviously that report is on tape. But any way those firefighters were shot. We don't know whether the firefighters had something to do with setting the fire. We had early reports of that. But we just don't know.

And then two other firefighters responded. They were also shot.

Do we have Jenna Lento now? We're trying to get it cued up.

But as you can see, the firefighters weren't able to put out blaze because it was too dangerous. We don't know who exactly was firing the gun in this incident. But we do know those two firefighters were killed. Again, this was in Upstate New York, Webster, New York. It's frigid there, as you can see.

Do we have that report now from WROC?

All right. We're going to have to go to a break. We'll get that report for you quickly. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: All right. This is just in to CNN.

We told you a little earlier that two firefighters were killed as they responded to a fire in a home in Upstate New York, near Rochester. Two other firefighters were injured when they attempted to flight this blaze. Here's Jenna Lento from WROC.


JENNA LENTON, WROC: Matt and Caroline, these neighbors are shocked. They say it's nothing they expect ever to happen in this community. They were so surprised when they woke up this morning. A lot of these neighbors, their homes sitting along the water here. They could see from their window, they could see the flames. Some of them calling 911. Some of them calling friends and family who live on the other side of the water. And, of course, some of them unfortunately unable to get in contact with those people that they know, unable to drive down Lake Road because it is blocked off.

Now, I actually want to step aside here. I want to zoom in. You can see that smoke is billowing in the air right now. There are working flames on one of those homes over there.

It appears as if multiple fire crews are over there right now battling this fire. We actually just saw a fire truck coming down Lake Road. You maybe able to see right now, there's a red fire truck coming towards those homes. There's a chopper also, Matt and Caroline, chopper circling the scene right now.

Of course, everyone is just trying to get through this day, trying to piece this all together. Neighborhoods in shock, everyone just trying to find answers. Of course, we're out here. We're continuing to talk to neighbors who are shocked trying to get in touch with their loved ones.

And, of course, we'll keep you posted with any new details or developments.


COSTELLO: All right. Finally, we're glad we got that report. And that does it for me. Thank you so much for joining me today.

NEWSROOM continues now with Alina Cho.